ATLANTIC CITY — Residents may soon have the ability to address neighborhood concerns directly to Police Department supervisors as part of an ongoing effort to improve community relations.
City Council introduced an ordinance Wednesday evening that would create a citizens advisory board with the goal of fostering “communication, inclusiveness and transparency” between the department and residents.
“The idea came from the chief of police and council, collaboratively, to make the citizens aware that they can have some input about what goes on in the city,” said Council Vice President Aaron Randolph, who sponsored the ordinance.
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The formation of the board mirrors a recommendation in the state’s report on transitioning city government back to local control. Special Counsel Jim Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to address the state’s role in Atlantic City and authored the transition report, made reference to having the department meet regularly with residents to “track key issues” about public safety and crime.
Chief Henry White or a deputy chief from the department will be present at monthly executive session meetings.
“We welcome the creation of the citizens advisory board and look forward to working with its members,” White said. “This board, through their interaction with officers, will hopefully be able to provide the community with a greater understanding of police work. The more people that we can educate on certain police procedures and why we do things, the better relationship we can have with the community.”
Public meetings will be held quarterly and will operate under Robert’s Rules of Order.
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According to the ordinance, the 15-member board will be made up of one member from each of the city’s five civic associations and one member from the Boardwalk Committee, three appointments made by the mayor, three more selected by council and one from the Atlantic City Board of Education.
The remaining two open seats will be city youth between the ages of 18 and 25 selected by the board.
Randolph said those numbers are still being worked out and could change before the ordinance is formally adopted.
The board will be responsible for receiving and compiling information from both the Police Department and the general public, serving as a conduit between the two. The board and the department will also review best practices of law enforcement from around the country, particularly in the areas of community policing and development of alternatives to incarceration.
The Johnson report specifically recommended the Police Department develop early intervention programs and alternatives to incarceration as a way to improve the quality of life for the city’s younger residents.
“(The Police Department) have been, and are still trying to, make sure that the general public knows that they don’t only (deal with) crime, but they’re part of the community, too,” Randolph said.