To the nearly perennial debate about whether NYPD officers should live within the five boroughs, add the current iteration of the City Council.
As part of its policing-reform efforts, the legislative body is considering a resolution that would call on state legislators to pass, and Governor Cuomo to sign, a bill that would compel NYPD cops to make their homes in the city within a year of their appointment.
Pay Is The Issue
Backers say a residency requirement could spur improved community-police relations given that officers would have more of an ownership stake in the neighborhood, borough and city they patrol. Proponents also argue that officers who live in the city will invariably increase city revenue, which of course pays for officers’ salaries, since they will spend more of their money here.
But others, most prominently the Police Benevolent Association, note that officers’ starting salaries—$42,500—although they double after five-and-a-half years on the job, are insufficient for them to build a life here, particularly if they want to start raising families right away. The PBA’s position is that mandating residency without also addressing pay will hurt recruitment.
“We can’t talk about changing the NYPD residency requirements without talking about police officers’ pay. New York City police officers are still paid upwards of 30 percent less than other cops in our area,” the union’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said in a statement. “Requiring them to live in the city and shoulder its sky-high cost of living on a below-market salary will hurt NYPD recruitment efforts, not improve them.”
Unlike the vast majority of the city’s civil-service hires, who must establish residency within 90 days and live in the city for two years, police, correction and fire personnel can live outside the city, with police officers required to live in the city or in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam or Orange counties within 30 days of hire.
Just under half of NYPD officers—48.4 percent—live in the city, according to the department. The Council’s resolution noted that is down about 10 percent since 2016.
City: Not a Priority
Proponents also say that a residency mandate will lead to a department that more accurately reflects the city’s demographics.
As of 2019, the city’s population was 32 percent white, 29 percent Hispanic or Latino, 24 percent black or African-American, 13.9 percent Asian and .4 percent American Indian or Alaskan native, according to Census Bureau data.
According to the NYPD, 46 percent of the department’s 34,583 officers are white, with 29 percent of them Hispanic, 15 percent black, 9 percent Asian and .1 percent Native American.
Chelsea Davis, the Chief Strategy Officer in the Office of the First Deputy Mayor, suggested that the residency question, while an “important issue,” was not a priority for the administration.
“The goal behind a residency requirement is ensuring that we have a police force that’s representative of the communities that it serves,” she said during a revent virtual meeting of the Council’s Public Safety Committee at which the resolution was briefly discussed. But getting to that point will entail more than just a residency requirement, she added.
5-Point Residency Credit
Among the other ways to achieve that goal are immersing officers in the communities they serve. Without detailing what they might involve, she also said that other possibilities are tweaking the NYPD’s recruitment and qualification requirements.
Still, residency is already among the factors considered in determining the strengths of applicants to the department, with residents receiving a five-point bump on civil-service tests, she said. Aside from military service, that is the only factor that can raise a score in that manner, she added.
While the Council’s resolution would appear to have a good chance of passing, the state bill faces a more uncertain fate.
Assembly Peter Abbate Jr., who represents the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Borough Park, suggested that cop salaries would be a consideration for him. “I don’t know if they could afford a house in my district,” the head of the Assembly's Committee on Governmental Employees said of officers new to the force.
The legislation’s proponents “would have to make a case of how it’s going to help the city more” particularly, he said, since the department has succeeded in diversifying its ranks of late.
Cites Exits for Better Pay
An important consideration for him is that the NYPD finds itself investing in training officers only to see them depart after five years for nearby municipalities and counties where salaries are as much as 25-percent higher.
In either case, he said he had not heard from either proponents or opponents of the legislation. “I really don’t know how much support there is,” he said.
State Sen. Diane Savino, whose district includes portions of Staten Island and Brooklyn, said any residency mandate needed a thorough airing-out.
“It’s a valid discussion, but it should include representatives of those workers,” said Ms. Savino, a strong labor advocate who's a former vice president of District Council 37's social-service employees local. “To do it around them would be unfair and offensive.”
And, she added, a residency requirement could pose “real problems” with recruitment and retention.
But she said that police unions "might be interested in this as it could help with negotiating higher salaries."
She noted that no matter where they live, officers, like all municipal civil-service workers, pay city income tax.
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