ATLANTIC CITY — City Council has taken a major step toward enacting policy recommendations from the state by creating an advisory board for improving police-community relations.
The nine-member council unanimously approved the creation of a Citizens Advisory Board on Wednesday night, signaling the first formally adopted action suggested by the state’s report on returning local government control to the city’s elected officials. The transition report, co-authored by Special Counsel Jim Johnson, suggested having the Police Department meet regularly with residents to “track key issues” with regard to public safety and crime.
The intent of the Citizens Advisory Board is to foster “communication, inclusiveness and transparency” between the Atlantic City Police Department and residents.
Johnson was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to create a “blueprint” for returning Atlantic City government to local control following the 2016 state takeover legislation, the Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act.
“Across the country, police and community leaders have found that strong relationships between police and the communities they serve are a big step toward better outcomes because they solve problems together,” said Johnson. “Indeed, the group Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration view community policing as a key component of sound public safety strategy. By forming a body that draws from community leaders and requires regular meetings with top leadership, the City Council has taken an important step toward improving public safety. While there is more to be done, this is an important step adding to the work that the department has already undertaken.”
Since city government is under state oversight, the ordinance will require approval from the state Department of Community Affairs before it can be finalized.
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From Johnson’s recommendation, council Vice President Aaron Randolph, the ordinance’s sponsor, said police Chief Henry White and council worked “collaboratively, to make the citizens aware that they can have some input about what goes on in the city.”
“We welcome the creation of the Citizens Advisory Board and look forward to working with its members,” White said in November, after the ordinance was introduced. “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.”
Council President Marty Small Sr. called the recommendation to create the board “brilliant.”
He said it was a proactive step as opposed to a reactionary one.
ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. did not show up at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting.
“City Council heeded the advice of the Johnson report,” he said. “I think it’s a way for the community and the Police Department to come closer together. I look forward to working with the board to improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Public meetings will be held quarterly. A date for the first meeting has not been set, Small said.
The board will consist of 15 members, according to the ordinance. Six members will be nominated from each of the city’s five civic associations and the Boardwalk Committee. The Atlantic City Board of Education will nominate one member, and two more candidates will be youth members selected by a majority of the board.
City Council nominated three members — Delmar Hamilton, Frank Irving and Farook Hossain — during Wednesday night’s meeting.
The mayor is also afforded three nominations for membership. An email request to Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr.’s office inquiring about whether nominations had been made or a time frame for when the nominations will be announced was not returned.
Gilliam did not attend Wednesday night’s council meeting.