The Chief
May 11, 2001

Mayoral Contenders Back Cop Residence

Unions, Giuliani Opposed

By William Van Auken

With the election five months away, all four Democratic candidates for Mayor and at least one of the undeclared Republicans have coalesced around a policy that the incumbent Mayor has staunchly opposed - making city residency a hiring qualification for Police Officers.

While only one of the cops charged in the stationhouse torture of Abner Louima and two of the four officers who shot Amadou Diallo lived outside the city, support for requiring cops to live where they work was revived by both high-profile incidents.

Can Live in Suburbs

 A residency rule was in effect in the city until 1962, when it was lifted to allow officers to also live in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Orange, Putnam or Westchester counties.

A bill authorizing the re-imposition of a residency rule for city cops won passage in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly last year, but was then bottled up in the Republican-controlled State Senate, where Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, as well as Senators from suburban counties where NYPD members currently live, have opposed the requirement.

Fernando Ferrer: Residence right to top.  

"Residency is very important and I have supported it for a long time, including as a member of the City Council," said Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

Mr. Ferrer, who has been among the NYPD's most vocal critics in the Democratic pack, advanced the most far-reaching conception of a residency rule.

"I would support a residency rule prospectively for new Police Officers, and for their supervisors, all the way up to the Chief of the Department," said Mr. Ferrer.

 The Bronx Borough President explained that he would like to negotiate a residency rule prospectively for New Police Officers, and for their supervisors, all the way up to the Chief of the Department," said Mr. Ferrer.

The Bronx Borough President explained that he would like to negotiate a residency requirement with all of the police unions, but that he would instruct his Police Commissioner to require those officers receiving discretionary promotions to the ranks of Inspector and above to reside somewhere in the five boroughs.

"They have to set an example about living in the city," he said. Mr. Ferrer dismissed concerns that a residency requirement could compound the NYPD's current problems in recruiting cops. "Are you telling me that in a city of 8 million people we can't find enough qualified individuals to serve on our police force? Come on."

 City Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, who has earned the Mayor's wrath by targeting "'I'm the only candidate who has voted for residency for new Police Officers," said Mr. Hevesi, who served for 22 years in the State Assembly. The latest legislation introduced in Albany, reviving the requirement, he pointed out, was sponsored by Queens State Senator, Daniel R. Hevesi, his son.

"We have an enormous pool of talent in New York City from which to recruit," said Comptroller Hevesi. "Our police officers ought to reflect the city and they ought to be comfortable in its communities and appreciate their diversity."

In Vallone 'Blueprint'

Peter F. Vallone: Give cops 'vested interest.'

A spokesman for Peter F. Vallone referred to the City Council Speaker's repeated calls for police residency in Council reports. In his "Blueprint for Reform," issued in the wake of the Diallo shooting, he stated: "I advocate imposing a residency requirement for all NYPD officers. This would ensure that the police who serve and protect our city's communities also have a vested interest in their welfare because they live in them, as do most other city employees."

Public Advocate Mark Green has also made the residency requirement part of his platform. At a rally launching his campaign last month, former Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, who has emerged as one of his principal advisers on police issues, called the proposal a worthwhile demand, but added that political realities might make other measures more feasible.

"The issue of residency is very important, but the resolution of it rests in Albany," said Mr. Bratton. "His support for it may make it happen, but the real issue is that the Police Department should look like the people it serves and be reflective of the population."

Bratton: Use Cadets

Mr. Bratton said that until a residency requirement was in place, the city could still make strides in that direction by expanding its Police Cadet program, which is restricted to city residents, and basing it in the City University of New York, which draws predominantly minority students. The former Police Commissioner stressed that whatever measures are taken, they should not include the lowering of age and education standards. "It is critical that the caliber of the Police Officers remain above reproach," he said. "We fought too hard for this to have any talk of lowering standards under a new Mayor."

Herman Badillo, a potential Republican candidate for Mayor, also backs residency for cops. "He supports that" said a spokesman. "He knows how difficult it is to get that through the Legislature, but he definitely will work on that." A spokesman for Michael Bloomberg, another potential Republican candidate, did not respond to repeated calls seeking his position on the issue.

 Mayor Giuliani dismissed the candidates' unanimous backing for the measure as political posturing.

 He's Not Salivating

'It's a great Pavlovian device," said the Mayor at a May 2 press conference. 'You say you're for it, and 65 percent of the people cheer for you. And it will never happen." Mr. Giuliani added that studies done by the NYPD have indicated that there are "slightly more civilian complaints against police officers who live in the city," than there are against those residing in the suburbs.

"I don't agree with a residency requirement for Police Officers any more than I do with one for Teachers" said the Mayor.

Patrick J. Lynch: A bogus issue.  

Police unions, which have successfully lobbied for the killing of previous residency legislation, blasted the candidates' call for a new law.

"What all the candidates for political office should be looking to do is recruit the best-qualified candidates to be New York City Police Officers," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch. "It shouldn't matter where they come from."

Mr. Lynch noted that while 60 percent of his union's members now live in the city, "80 percent of those who gave their lives in the line of duty in recent years lived outside the city."

Captains Endowment Association President John F. Driscoll, who represents officers in the discretionary promotion rank, said that any requirement that these senior commanders reside in the city would be illegal.

'Beating Up on Cops'

"I'll take him to court," he said when asked about Mr. Ferrer's proposal. "The law says we're allowed to live in the six surrounding counties."

"All of them think they can make a name for themselves by beating up on the police," said Mr. Driscoll. "Why don't they propose something that is really going to help the Police Department?"

The Captains' union leader expressed confidence that the State Legislature would side with the unions on the issue. "My members live in these areas, and I think their legislators are going to agree with me," he said.

An Albany insider who spoke on condition that he not be identified said that the fate of police residency legislation may hinge on another election scheduled next year.

"At the end of the day, it will depend on who the next Governor is," he said. "The next Mayor is probably going to be a Democrat, and if the next Governor is too, he's got a good shot at moving their agenda."

Mr. Pataki, he added, is counting on police union support in the upcoming election and is not likely to sign any bill strongly opposed by the PBA and other police organizations. "This is not the kind of thing you're going to get an override on; Joe Bruno is going to oppose it, and you've got too many upstate Republicans who think like Rudy," he said.