UPDATED: AUG. 25 at 4:12 p.m. to reflect statement from Jamestown Kendall Club
JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council held a work session Monday night and spent a great deal of time discussing a proposed residency requirement for city police officers.
During the half-hour discussion of the proposed local law, council members were generally in agreement that a police residency requirement would be a good thing for the city. In fact, the council felt so strongly in favor of the requirement that they increased the proposed term for how long the residency requirement would be in place, bumping it up from the original five years to ten years.
During the conversation, Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist and city attorney Elliot Raimondo said that state law allows municipalities to institute a residency requirement for officers when the police force has less than 200 officers and it doesn’t have to be negotiated into a collective bargaining unit. They also explained that several communities in Western New York already have such requirements on the books. In addition, they explained that police and fire employees are the only labor groups where some type of residency guidelines can be put in place, while other groups of workers would have to have such requirements negotiated into their labor agreements with the city.
According to Raimondo, Jamestown Police have the lowest number of members who currently live in the city, at just 24%. Fire is at about 40%, although many of the firefighters who live outside of Jamestown still live close enough to be able to respond to emergency calls in a timely fashion when necessary. All other labor groups in the city have residency rates at or above 80%.
A hearing on the local law will take place next month, with more details on the specific date, time and process to be announced.
Following the hearing, the council would vote on the proposal to put the local law on the books.
If approved, the residency requirement would only be applied to any new officer hired after January 1 of next year. Those currently on the police force would be exempt.
Both Jamestown Acting Police chief Tim Jackson, who is the former president of the Kendall Club police union, along with retired Jamestown Police officer and current city councilman Jeff Russell are in favor of the local law.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon the Jamestown Kendall Club released the following, announcing their opposition to the proposed local law:
“The City of Jamestown did not succeed in seeking a residency requirement for new hires during the last Arbitration. The Arbitration panel, including the City’s own panel member, did not rule in favor of the City’s residency requirement proposal. Two Courts have already affirmed that ruling. Once again, the City is trying to impose a requirement for which they should work with the Kendall Club, PBA to find a compromise.
The Kendall Club, PBA stands ready, willing, and able to engage in meaningful discussions with the City. As has been stated to the City, Police Officers and their families should enjoy a reasonable degree of privacy. Requiring newly hired Police Officers to live in the County (as the great majority do) as opposed to within the City, provides a fair balance. Restricting the rights of new hires will reduce the pool of qualified applicants available to the City. Addressing this issue is critical to maintaining a highly qualified work force, especially when potential applicants can obtain better wages and benefits in other local departments.
It is truly unfortunate that the City did not work with the Kendall Club to resolve this issue, but rather chose to unilaterally attempt to make this change, possibly requiring the taxpayers to pay yet more legal fees to address the inevitable legal challenges that will follow. The Kendall Club is also disappointed that it learned of the announcement through the media. The Kendall Club is disappointed the City ignored the negotiation process regarding this critical issue. “