Rockford should hire the most qualified candidates

Residency should not be the top qualification for the police and fire department in the city of Rockford. Public safety employees often make life and death decisions to protect or treat citizens in our community, and the first priority should not be where they live, but what skills they bring to the job.

An ordinance, propopsed by Alderman Venita Hervey, D-5th, would require public safety applicants to have established Rockford residency for six months prior to being allowed to apply as a candidate for police and  fire departments.

The ordinance would totally eliminate consideration of any candidate that wasn’t a resident of the city. Any preferential points awarded to candidates based on residency are also wrong-headed, and the new state law allows points for residency to be optional.

The alderman stated, “I want our applicants to have a stake in this community. It’s about having an equity with the Rockford residents.” Hervey was also quoted, “When you have people from little towns coming into rough-and-tumble areas, (Rockford, I assume), their knowledge is based on stereotypes.”

Also, what advantages do people that live outside the city have over city residents, as suggested by the alderman? The ordinance, according to Hervey, would increase the low-income and minority opportunities in the police and fire ranks.

Many people have grown tired of living at the level of the lowest or least common denominator – a mathematical term describing a common denominator of a set of fractions, that must be able to be divided into the other denominators. In other words, people are tired of things being based on the lowest level playing field.

Rockford has been told in study after study that our residents lag far behind the number of 4-year bachelor degrees as the citizens in other communities. We frequently import talent for many of our highly skilled positions, which would go begging without going outside of our boundaries.

Other reasons that have been implicitly suggested are that resident candidates would pay taxes into the city coffers and be a part of the neighborhoods which they have sworn to protect and defend.

Those are not sufficient reasons to control where one lives in a free society. Public safety employees in Loves Park, Aurora and Springfield can live where they wish. Cities that have to force people to be residents of their municipality are making a strong statement, which is not flattering and has the effect of reinforcing the problems.

Services provided should be the best, by the most qualified people, not just because those services come from a fellow taxpayer or neighbor. When you go to a doctor, do you want the best, or one who graduated at the bottom of their class, but is a Rockford resident?

The training required for police candidates and emergency medical personnel should not be restricted by the boundaries of residency, as far as I’m concerned. The citizens deserve the best and when your life is on the line, you don’t care whether the person treating you or protecting you is a resident or not – take my word for it!