At last night’s Lawrence Township Town Council meeting, William B. Holmes Sr., a 50-year resident of the township, asked council members what could be done to make the police force reflect the township’s racially diverse population.
“If you can tell me that it does, I’ll go away,” said Holmes.
“No, I can’t,” replied Township Manager, Richard Krawczun.
Holmes cited the residency requirement as a possible obstacle in attracting a more diverse force. Currently, officers must live within the township upon their hire.
“It’s an interesting occupation and the salary is very nice. It’s also satisfying and rewarding,” said Holmes.
Holmes asked council members whether anything is being done in terms of recruitment especially, as Holmes observed, given the culture of law enforcement today and the attitudes that people have about police officers. He also inquired whether something can be done to permit applicants from outside of the township.
Krawczun explained that the township is a civil service community and is not involved in any formal recruitment programs because it is not involved in the testing of applicants.
“We’ve done some informal reaching out to individuals to see if they would be interested in the testing for the position but haven’t had a high degree of success in that regard,” said Krawczun. “We’ve tried to informally recruit. We’ve tried to reach out to individuals that we think are potential candidates and gone to families with law enforcement backgrounds. There’s not a lot of interest right now.”
“What can we do about waiving the residency requirement and continuing recruitment efforts?” asked Holmes.
“I think that would have to be a policy discussion to see what are the implications of that and I think that the Police Chief should weigh into the matter,”, stated Krawczun. “I think that we need to look at the value of having residents have the opportunity to work in a town that they live and grew up in. I think that that there is something to be said for that.”
As Holmes closed his comment, he stated that he would “be back again” to check on township progress of a policy discussion.
Author’s note: To aid communities struggling to create more racially representative police forces, a national task force was formed by President Obama. A report, “21st Century Policing”, was issued, May 2015, followed by an Implementation Guide.