NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 24, 2013

Town grapples with debate on police residency

SALISBURY — With the issue of required in-state residency still in effect in Salisbury, some police officers may soon be grappling with how the civil service mandate might affect their careers if they continue to serve on the force.

At October’s Town Meeting, voters tabled an article to eliminate the civil service regulation requiring Salisbury police officers to live in Massachusetts. Town Manager Neil Harrington placed the article on the warrant after members of Salisbury’s police union approached him about it, he said.

“A majority of the police officers in the union voted in favor of putting the article on the warrant,” Harrington said. “Of all the options the union explored on the topic, this was the one they preferred to go forward with.”

Unlike the Salisbury Fire Department, Salisbury Police Department is a civil service agency and must follow its rules, one of which requires all police officers to live in Massachusetts within 10 miles of the community in which they serve.

On behalf of many officers wanting the change, Harrington placed the article asking voters for permission to send a Home Rule petition to the Legislature requesting the removal of the in-state residency restriction. Many believe the rule limits their living options more than other communities, since Salisbury borders New Hampshire to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Harrington agreed with the officers who approached him, as did Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler. In addition, the residency restriction doesn’t apply to any other town employee, Harrington said, because no other Salisbury department falls under Massachusetts Civil Service.

At the Oct. 28 Town Meeting, Fowler explained that he and the majority of his officers supported removing the civil service regulation, but after Salisbury Sgt. Chuck Scione, a Salisbury resident, rose and spoke forcefully against eliminating the law, Town Meeting decided it needed more time to consider the issue and tabled it.

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