I am writing to express my concern with regard to residency requirements for police officers serving the City of Utica, and am hoping that someone on your staff can explore and report on this matter that is now before our Common Council — so that residents and voters can have a clear understanding.
I believe that if police officers live in the city, they will have a more vested interest in the community in which they serve — more “skin in the game” and a sense that their role is much more than a job description. 5 years residency may allow an officer to get to know our streets and some of our citizens, but as times change, they can quickly lose sight and relevance. (Incidentally, I do not know which officers currently serve my neighborhood. I would think that developing relationships and partnerships among citizens/residents would be helpful — but that’s a different conversation.)
As residents of Utica, we pay taxes toward a budget that provides for Utica’s police department. In effect, we are contributing to a payroll, benefits and pensions — an enormous portion of our budget. As cited in several journals around the State and nation, some officers will put in their 20 years, retire, and then live for 40 years. This is a career that offers great rewards; so I believe strongly that the career time should be spent within the community being served, and which is provided for by taxpayers.
Imagine the impact on Utica’s economy and demographics, if all middle-income individuals and families were to decide that the city is not good enough for them. As older people pass, and their homes go on the market, who will purchase them? We have already seen the impact in a number of neighborhoods.
It would be terribly ironic if officers and their spouses decided to live outside the city because of crime. We hire them to keep an eye on our community, and to reduce crime! It would also be problematic if police officers and their spouses decided to live outside the city because they don’t like the school district. Burying heads in the sand, and not working harder with the school district towards progress sends a very poor message.
With regard to recruitment, which seems to be a key defense, does anyone know exactly what efforts are being made to recruit? A career in law enforcement is a very meaningful and rewarding one, with excellent benefits. Similar to a career in the military, it requires bravery, strength, and a desire to help others.
So just how are we positioning this career opportunity? And exactly how, and how often are we promoting? Are we talking routinely and enthusiastically to school principals, guidance counselors, career advisors, at job fairs, and through the appropriate media channels ? Are we truly exhausting all efforts to recruit our young citizens? I am assuming someone tracks and reports this effort to our Mayor. Until we have clear and verified answers to these questions, I think it would be unwise to alter the residency requirements.
Thank you for your time.