With the City preparing to hire five new police officers – and perhaps more in the coming years – City Councillor Leo Robinson has put in an order to revisit the idea of a residency ordinance.
The issue has been nipping at the heels of the Council for several years, with the most recent action coming last March when Robinson put in a plan that was narrowly defeated in a 5-6 vote.
This week, he said he thinks it’s time to have the discussion again.
“I do want to revisit the residency requirement for public safety officials – police and fire,” he said. “We’re going to be looking to hire five new police officers and probably some firefighters in the near future too. In light of these hirings, I feel we need to revisit the issue.”
Others, such as Council President Matt Frank, said its time to move on from that issue and have more productive discussions.
“Every three months I seem to have to make a statement on this,” he said. “If you don’t get something, you wait a year. We’re talking about this same idea every few months. It’s the same 11 councillors and I don’t see the use of debating this again because nothing has changed…At some point, you have to say we don’t have time for this and we need to move on.”
Robinson’s plan calls for an ordinance that would require all newly hired public safety personnel to live in the City for five years after being hired. The City currently has a preference for hiring public safety personnel, and to be considered a resident who qualifies for the preference, one needs to have lived in Chelsea for one year. However, supporters indicate that most who are hired leave the City immediately after being hired.
Robinson said he would like to keep public safety workers in the City for five years after being hired so that they can help to build more of a middle class in the City and promote safety in the neighborhoods.
“If these folks are living here, they’ll get involved in the schools or volunteer in the local organizations like Chelsea Pride or Pop Warner or the Little League,” he said. “They’re always looking for coaches and mentors and this would add to the pool of people who could do such a thing.”
Robinson said that most surrounding cities have an ordinance already in place or have one that is pending, and some municipalities like Boston are looking to expand the timeframe one has to live in the community before being hired.
“Boston is looking to move from one year to three years in order to be counted as a resident before being hired,” he said. “A lot of life-long residents were being jumped by people who had moved in for a year just to get hired. So, other places are expanding their residency requirements and we’re still working on getting one.”
Frank said he didn’t see much hope for the measure going far on the Council as he knew of no one that has changed his or her position since March.
“Everyone has a difference of opinion on this and I respect their opinion as I hope they respect my opinion,” said Robinson.