Police, fire unions support charter changes on Nov. 8 ballot

To the editor:

On Nov. 8, the citizens of Bristol will see three questions on the ballot. The questions are for revisions to our City Charter. Question 2 and question 3 are significant to the future of our police and fire departments.

Question 2 addresses the police chief. The first part of the question is regarding the recruitment and testing for future chiefs. This is an antiquated process as it currently stands. Very few cities currently test for the position of chief, in fact most cities conduct a series of interviews for this position and resumes are used to determine the qualifications of the candidates.

A chief has proven over his career that he has the knowledge and the capabilities to supervise. What the city should look at for the chief’s position is his accomplishments, his leadership and his ability to balance a budget.

The second part of question 2 (police) and all of question 3 (fire) creates a 20-mile radius from headquarters that the chiefs must live in. The current city charter requires that the chiefs become residents of the City within six months of their appointments. Recent changes to the charter have made the chief positions four year terms. The addition of four year terms to the charter coupled with a strict residency requirement has created a situation for the city that may reduce the qualified applicant pool for the chief’s position. For the future of the police and fire departments we should be focused on the most qualified candidate not where they sleep.

With the advancement of communication technology, the residency requirement should be reconsidered and changed to a twenty mile radius. This radius would allow a sufficient response time for the Chief if he is needed on scene.

Finally, we would like to address the concern about the chiefs not being dedicated to the city if they are not a resident.

I have been a police officer in this City for nine years along with the president of our Union. I was raised in Bristol and still reside here. I serve alongside of 120 women and men, of which approximately 50 percent live outside of the city. On our first day of work, all of us along with every firefighter in this City took an oath to serve and protect you. We spoke the words of that oath and we walk it every day, never knowing if it will be our last. I have yet to find one police officer or Firefighter who is any less dedicated or less willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for this city and its great citizens because they don’t lay their head here at night.

As a Bristol firefighter who lives outside of our city and president of our union, I would like to think I and the more than 50 percent of the Bristol Firefighters who also live outside of Bristol are fine examples of why a “Yes” vote for question 3 on Nov. 8 is the right choice. I, along with my membership continue to serve with commitment and dedication to the City of Bristol both on duty and off duty regardless of where we call home. Bristol firefighters are required by the fire chief and city to live within 20 miles of headquarters. It only seems right and fair that the fire chief have the same requirement. The brothers and sisters of the Bristol Fire Department are more involved and dedicated than ever before in our community, whether they live here or not. By approving this referendum you will show our city’s commitment to not only Bristol but the greater Bristol area. Please join the Bristol firefighters and vote yes on question 3.

Please join us in guaranteeing that Bristol continues to hire the highest qualified candidate for police chief and fire chief. Please join us in voting “Yes”to questions 2 and 3 on Nov. 8.

James Pelletier, president

Bristol Police Union

Sean Lennon, president

Bristol Firefighters IAFF Local 773