Six Mayoral Contenders Say They Want NYPD Officers To Live In NYC. Would That Change Anything?

February 2, 2021

Six mayoral candidates—Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang, Carlos Menchaca, Maya Wiley, and Ray McGuire—now say they support a change in state law to require NYPD officers to live in New York City.

Donovan was the latest candidate to publicly voice support for the change at a debate Sunday night.

“Why is [the NYPD] the only agency in city government that doesn’t have a requirement to live in our communities?" he asked. “If there’s any issue in this city, where making sure folks understand the communities they’re policing and build relationships, it is there. I would change and make sure there was a residency requirement.”

Most city employees are required to live in New York City for at least the first two years of their employment. But NYPD officers, like correction officers and firefighters, are exempt from that rule, and may live in one of the surrounding areas of Nassau, Westchester, Suffolk, Orange, Rockland or Putnam counties.

Andrew Yang voiced support for a residency requirement for NYPD officers on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show last week. Garcia included the proposal when launching her campaign last year as one of the ways she would reform the NYPD. A spokesman for Carlos Menchaca’s campaign said he also supports residency requirements but thinks recruitment should also better reflect the city along racial and gender lines. A spokesperson for Ray McGuire said he supports residency requirements for incoming police officers. In an email, a campaign spokesperson said Maya Wiley also supports a residency requirement.

The one candidate who was an NYPD officer, Eric Adams, previously supported the proposal but now prefers encouraging officers to live in the five boroughs, according to a campaign spokesman. A spokesperson for Scott Stringer said he was considering a residency requirement.

Joo-Hyun Kang, the director of the advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform, called the idea a “cosmetic tweak,” pointing out many police officers already live in areas like South Brooklyn, the Rockaway Peninsula, and Staten Island.

“There’s ways that the residency requirement has emotional appeal for people, but there’s really no research that shows that [it] improves the safety of communities or reduces police violence,” she said. “The city of Chicago has a residency requirement since the early 1900s and they’re known [to be] notoriously violent, including police torture.”

It’s perhaps one of the only issues where police union representatives and criminal justice reformers see eye to eye.

“We can’t talk about changing the NYPD residency requirements without talking about police officers’ pay,” said Pat Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, who said NYPD officers earn $42,000 starting off, compared to state troopers who earn $57,000. “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.”

But many other city employees live within the confines of the city and make significantly less than police officers.

Slightly more than half of the NYPD’s uniformed officers reside outside of the city, Gothamist reported last summer, or about 18,300 officers. That’s a lower percentage than in 2016, when about 58 percent of officers lived within the five boroughs.