, Newburyport, MA

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December 24, 2013

Town grapples with debate on police residency


“And you have to balance education and experience when it comes to potential promotions,” Fowler said.

Fowler hasn’t made any decision on who will be promoted to any positions, he said, nor has he made any promises. He’s going to make two promotional lists, one to bring on a new sergeant and one for the lieutenant’s job.

He’ll use an assessment center hiring model for the lieutenant’s positions, as well as the sergeant, instead of just using officers scores on the civil service sergeant’s exam. The assessment center route includes a test and extensive interview by a board of three out-of-town police officials who quiz candidates on how they’d handle critical incidents that could happen in the field.

In many civil service departments in communities along state borders, the in-state residency regulation is sometimes overlooked. It doesn’t usually rear up until promotions are in the mix and complaints are filed by an in-state candidate who gets passed over for an out of state candidate.

That was the case about 10 years ago at the Haverhill Fire Department when an in-state firefighter filed a grievance after being passed over for a lieutenant’s position for another firefighter who lived in New Hampshire. After exposing the out-of-state residency of the firefighter, the city discovered a high-ranking fire department official was also living in New Hampshire, forcing him to come back to Massachusetts or quit.

The residency issue and its impact on prestigious and lucrative promotions have caused schisms in departments in other communities at times. But, Fowler said, that won’t be acceptable in Salisbury.

“This is a small department,” Fowler said, “and even if there are differences, the officers here need to be professionals and work together every day.”

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