Mayor signs initiative to increase police diversity

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — The way police officers are hired in the township is set to change.

Mayor George A. Spadoro signed legislation last week that was requested by the department’s top brass. Police officials said that the overhaul of hiring practices will make it easier to increase diversity on the force.

"After two years of hard work and support from many individuals, especially Councilman Parag Patel, Edison now has a police hiring ordinance that gives us the flexibility to hire individuals that have essential police skills," Spadoro said.

Once the mayor signs an ordinance and it is advertised, it takes 20 days to become law, according to township officials.

The ordinance removes the strong preference given to Edison residents when hiring for the force, which makes it easier for out-of-town applicants to be hired.

It also allows the department to hire officers that went through the alternate route program. These applicants have already attended the police academy at their own expense.

The ordinance "allows us to hire, for the first time ever, certified police officers in other townships," Spadoro said.

Under the ordinance, no more than two officers can be hired in a year through the alternate route program.

Current police hiring requirements, such as an oral interview, background investigation, medical examination, and psychological examination are not changed in the ordinance.

"Edison recognizes that a department that reflects the community is a better department," Spadoro said. Diversity is needed within the department due to the large ethnic diversity within the community, according to the mayor.

The department currently has 207 officers, which includes two women, three African-Americans, two Asian-Americans, and two Hispanic officers.

Hiring minority officers will help the department more easily speak with some of the residents of the township, said Edison police officer Joseph Luistro, president of the New Jersey Asian-American Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Understanding the customs and language of a resident is important for the officers, he said. The officers need to be able to more easily interact with the residents. By making the department more diverse that goal will be met, according to Luistro

Police Chief Edward Costello asked for the ordinance to be approved and signed into law because he feels the department would benefit from a larger applicant pool, he said.

The preference to hire Edison residents made people from other towns not apply, police officials have said

The previous hiring policy was "doing a disservice to our department and our town to have a small applicant pool," said Lt. Matthew Freeman, who is involved in recruiting for the department.