Cops: Overhaul will increase applicant pool

Measure drops hiring
preference for Edison residents

Staff Writer

Measure drops hiring
preference for Edison residents


Staff Writer

The Edison Police Department is looking to bring more diversity to its ranks. In order to accomplish that goal, officials approved an overhaul of the department’s hiring practices last week.

The Township Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will permit the department to hire two candidates per year through an alternate-route program and make it easier to hire people from outside of Edison.

Police Chief Edward Costello requested the ordinance, noting that the new hiring practices should make the pool of candidates for the department larger, more qualified and more diverse.

"This is a police department ordinance. It was not proposed by any of us [the council]," Councilman Parag Patel said.

The new hiring practices may save taxpayer money, according to police and township officials.

Alternate-route candidates have already gone through the police academy on their own. Therefore, the taxpayers do not have to pay for new officers’ training, officials said.

The department, under the previous law, hired officers and then paid to have them go through the police academy.

Edison would be able to recruit the best candidates from the police academy, Costello said.

Under the new ordinance, the alternate-route candidates will not have to take the physical agility or written tests that other Edison police officers must take before being hired.

The tests show the department how a candidate will do in the academy, Costello said. The police academy test "far exceeds the watered-down physical test that we have."

Asking an applicant to take the tests after graduating from the academy is like asking a college graduate to take the SATs before being hired, said Township Attorney Louis Rainone.

Some residents want to see the candidates come from Edison.

"I would much, much prefer this ordinance if you confine your hiring to Edison," said Jane Tousman, a former council member.

"I have always felt very comfortable that the police and fire and EMS [Emergency Medical Services] people live in Edison," said Esther Nemeths.

The town cannot legally require a police officer to live in the town where he or she works, Rainone said.

"Just because [an officer] may not live in Edison doesn’t mean he’s not going to serve and protect to the best of his ability," said Councilman Charles Tomaro.

The former township law requested that preference be given to Edison residents during the hiring process. After the candidate is hired, he or she can move out of the township, officials noted.

The preference to hire Edison residents made people from other towns hesitant to apply, said Police Lt. Matthew Freeman, who is involved in recruiting for the department.

At job fairs, applicants take their resumes back once they hear that there is a preference given to township residents, he said.

"It’s doing a disservice to our department and our town to have a small applicant pool," Freeman said.

Only one police officer, Patrolman David Rodriguez, has been hired from out of town since the preference law was enacted in 1991. Rodriguez has since moved into town.

Of the candidates that were hired from within the township, 22 officers have moved out of town, Costello said.

By adopting this ordinance, "there’s a lot of opportunity they’re opening up for people," Rodriguez said.

The department is hoping that hiring people from out of town will help to increase diversity. The department currently has 207 officers, which includes two women officers, three black officers, two Asian-American officers and two Hispanic officers.

Edison is a very diverse community, Freeman said. However, the department has a hard time recruiting minority candidates.

"Within the Asian community in Edison, our parents usually gear us toward the science, technological, and medical professions," said Edison Police Officer Joseph Luistro, president of the New Jersey Asian American Law Enforcement Officers Association.

The association, which has about 50 sworn members, tries to act as role models and show the Asian community that law enforcement is a profession, Luistro said.

Diversity within the department helps when there are language or cultural barriers, Luistro said.

"We have a chance to slowly, slowly integrate our department," said Councilman Peter J. Barnes III.

"Since we spend so much money [on the police department] and it’s such a large department, I think we should continue tweaking it and making it better," Patel said.

The ordinance also sets a limit on the number of officers there can be in the department. The limits are required by state law although the township does not have to fill all of the positions created in the ordinance.