, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 24, 2013

Town grapples with debate on police residency


It’s common knowledge that some Salisbury police officers already live in nearby New Hampshire communities, which could leave them in a quandary as to their future in Salisbury. That’s particularly true when it comes to who will take on leadership roles, like that of sergeant and lieutenant, who will be appointed in the near future.

According to both Harrington and Fowler, where an officer lives will have little to do with who is chosen for those jobs. The two intend “to promote the most qualified people to leadership positions,” no matter where they live. However, if those chosen to be the next sergeant and lieutenant don’t live in Massachusetts, Harrington and Fowler said, they’ll have to decide whether to take the job and move in state, or turn down the appointment and look elsewhere for career opportunities.

Fowler spent more than 20 years in law enforcement in Connecticut, a state that doesn’t have civil service. Since arriving in town, he’s learned civil service’s value in preventing cronyism and fostering an atmosphere of fairness based on test scores, he said.

But he’s also worried the impact the in-state residency rule could have on good officers. Some might leave.

“The drawback of civil service’s residency rule is in losing good officers because it restricts their ability for promotion and our ability to hire the most qualified people,” Fowler said. “I intend to promote the most qualified candidate to move the department forward. If it happens to be someone who doesn’t happen to live in the commonwealth, he’ll have to make a decision.”

Fowler said law enforcement has changed from the days when longevity and seniority were considered the most important factors when it comes to promotions. In recent years, with many colleges offering criminal justice degrees, police agencies are seeing more educated candidates applying for both leadership positions and entry level jobs.

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