ATLANTIC CITY — Following Tuesday’s police promotions, several residents and City Council expressed mixed feelings about a lack of diversity and city representation in City Hall.
Seven police sergeants were promoted to the rank of lieutenant Tuesday, including the first Latino to join the supervisory ranks in the department’s history. Five Class II officers were also elevated to full-time officers Tuesday, as were two others Feb. 19.
Bert Lopez, a former Atlantic City Board of Education member and the first Latino elected official in the city’s history, said that while it was encouraging to see a Latino officer promoted, “not a lot has changed” since he took office more than 20 years ago.
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“I’m happy to see a Latino on City Council (Moisse Delgado), and I’m happy to see some progress,” he said. “But I’m here to remind you that this is not just a one-and-go. We have one lieutenant promoted, but there’s a lot more that needs to take place, a lot more that we could do.”
While the promotions were accepted as an overall positive, some members of council were unhappy with the fact that only one of the seven promoted lieutenants was an Atlantic City resident. Council unanimously adopted a resolution in December requesting that preference be given to city residents in the upcoming promotion process.
The Class II officers who were promoted this month are all city residents.
Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz said he was going to submit a formal inquiry to the selection committee about whether council’s request played a role in the process. Kurtz said that in addition to the resolution, the city has laws on the books regarding residential preference when considering promotions for public employees.
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“To not have that reflected in the promotional process, it’s of concern to me personally,” said Kurtz during Wednesday evening’s council meeting, which was rescheduled from Feb. 20. “I think it runs counter to what we’re trying to do to rebuild our neighborhoods and have our professionals and our public safety people living in this town.”
Delgado said the governing body needs to “continue fighting” to make sure city residents are part of the public employee supervisory ranks. Delgado said having high-ranking public employees living in the city creates a “cyclical” positive effect because those people pay taxes, buy goods, send their children to schools and have deeper connections to the community.
“We need to continually support the agenda to get our police officers back home,” he said. “Atlantic City is their home.”
Council President Marty Small Sr. said Atlantic City residents “are the priority.”
Small said council would “continue to fight” for residential preference in the next round of promotions.
“It’s not being overlooked. We won’t let it be overlooked,” he said.