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Letter: In police chief search, Pittsfield should ditch civil service but keep residency requirement

To the editor: The next mayor of Pittsfield will have a lot of decisions to make during the first year or so of his or her term.

Choosing the next police chief (and fire chief, though that position is hopefully filled for several more years) is among the most important decisions they will be left to make. I am in agreement with many that removing this job from the yoke of civil service should be beneficial to Pittsfield. That benefit is not without disadvantages, however. One disadvantage is that it would make the job more susceptible to the political whims of the city. Between social media and a fairly consistent barrage of criticism from one faction or another, I am not surprised that when these jobs open up there are few candidates stepping forward.

Who would want to subject themselves to this or the armchair journalists, some of whom live in other communities that spend their days gleefully looking for ways to stir up controversy, finding conspiracy around every corner and presenting rumors as truth? It's a no-win position for anyone that chooses to enter the arena.

Disadvantages aside, these are good jobs. They often are the pinnacle of one’s professional career and the opportunity to make a positive difference in the future of the departments. It is because of the importance, and the pay of these jobs that I am a firm believer in requiring residency. I believe most of the city’s uniformed personnel live in Pittsfield. I understand that if one grew up nearby, or bought a house prior to joining the departments, they might wish to stay in those communities, especially if their ties to the town and the schools run deep.

But at some rank, I believe residency is a must. The issue is two-fold. First, I want the command staff to live with policies they initiate or control and have skin in the game to ensure that they are as committed to making this city a better place to live as they say they are when being interviewed. I want them to demonstrate that the city is a good place to live and not just a place to draw a paycheck. And that leads to the second reason: These are some of the highest-paid jobs in the city and the county. And this city is the most reasonable place to live in Central and Southern Berkshire County. The pay is enough to afford housing in nearly every neighborhood in Pittsfield — so if this job is worth taking, it’s worth living in this community.

Dave Pill, Pittsfield

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