NJ Cops and Firefighters Could Face Longer Residency Requirement
New Jersey police officers and firefighters could be required to live in the municipalities where they work under a measure that cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 19.
The legislation would allow local governments to adopt an ordinance requiring that an applicant for appointment to the police department or paid fire department reside in the municipality for the first five years of his or her employment. The person would have to agree to start living in the town no later than six months after the date of employment.
"This will hopefully lead to other incentives to have uniformed officers remain a part of the community," said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison), co-sponsor of the bill. "Listen, when you have a cop that lives in your town he becomes a coach. He becomes an extra set of eyes. He becomes a deterrent even when he's off-duty."
Current civil service rules in New Jersey allow towns and cities to require firefighters and police to live in the municipality for a year. McKeon said he simply wants to give municipalities the option of a five-year residency requirement.
One police union president adamantly disagrees with the legislation.
"They're literally going to be backing up the U-Haul truck at 12:01 p.m. after the fifth year and moving out," said Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey Policemen's Benevolent Association.
Incentives like tax abatements and less expensive rent might lead to police officers and firefighters deciding on their own to live in the town where they're employed, according to Colligan. He also pointed out there are some municipalities in New Jersey that are far too expensive for a cop's salary.
"It's just going to be physically impossible for a police officer with starting salaries in 2015-2016 to live in that community. Quite frankly it's impossible in some of these communities," Colligan said.