LAWRENCE: Resident takes concerns about lack of police department diversity to council

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By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
LAWRENCE — Concerned that the Lawrence Township Police Department — in his opinion — does not reflect the diversity of the township, resident William Holmes Sr. approached Township Council to find a solution.
Mr. Holmes went to Township Council last week to express his concern that the Police Department does not reflect the township’s population, which includes African-Americans, Orientals and Latinos, as well as whites.
“What can be done about that?” Mr. Holmes asked, adding that he is aware the township has a residency requirement for police officers.
The policy, which has been in effect since 1993, requires applicants for the Police Department to live here when they are hired. It is not a requirement that they live in Lawrence after they are hired.
Mr. Holmes suggested that Lawrence Township should drop the residency requirement so that it would be able to attract a more diverse set of applicants from out of town.
Municipal Manager Richard Krawczun replied that Lawrence Township follows state Civil Service regulations. Applicants for the Police Department must take the Civil Service exam, and then they are ranked on a list of eligible hires compiled by the Civil Service Commission.
“As we determine the number of vacancies, the applicants are contacted. They can respond,” Mr. Krawczun said. Would-be police officers go through a background check and an interview during the hiring process.
The township does not have a formal recruitment process, Mr. Krawczun said, but it does reach out informally to recruit potential police officers through families that have a law enforcement background.
Nevertheless, Mr. Krawczun said, there is a good pool of applicants for police vacancies from Lawrence Township residents. The newest groups of new Lawrence police officers have included men and women from Russian, Polish and Latino backgrounds, he said.
Mr. Holmes replied that he has not seen many African-American or Oriental police officers in the Lawrence Township Police Department. The township does not have a representative police force, he added.
“As far as I am concerned, they (Russian and Polish police officers) are all white,” Mr. Holmes said, pushing for the township to drop the residency requirement to enlarge the applicant pool.
The township can either waive the residency requirement or continue to try to recruit potential police officers, Mr. Krawczun said. Dropping the residency requirement is a policy issue, and the Chief of Police should be consulted, he added. 

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