Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
NYPD Facebook Furor Brings Calls for Local Residency Rule
Sunday, December 11, 2011 - 08:26 PM
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday that calls for the New York Police Department to require officers to live in the city are unnecessary.
Bloomberg said about 60 percent of officers live in city limits and did not believe any residency requirement was necessary.
The mayor spoke a day after Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said that he plans to introduce a bill requiring that all new NYPD recruits live within the five boroughs. The proposal stemmed from the ongoing controversy over officers who allegedly made racist remarks about West Indian Day paradegoers on Facebook.
"If you live in New York City, you're more likely to show some respect for the tremendous racial and cultural diversity in New York City, the diversity that makes us great," Jeffries said.
Jeffries noted that police departments in Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston have similar residency requirements. Currently, New York City officers may live either within the city or in one of six surrounding counties: Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam or Orange.
The Facebook comments, some of which refer to paradegoers as "animals" and "savages," are currently being investigated by the NYPD.
"Most New York City police officers reside in New York City," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne wrote in an email in response to the proposal. "Sixty percent of the current Police Academy class are New York City residents. Fifty-three percent of NYPD personnel in the rank of police officer are minorities; 47 percent are white."
So, as the force ages and retires, Browne notes, the demographic of rank and file police officers is becoming “increasingly” made up of minorities
But Brooklyn council member Letitia James said a residency requirement was necessary, arguing that when police officers live within a community they're more likely to respect its residents.
"At no point in time would individuals who live next to individuals who are different go online and say they should be blown up, that they're savages, that they're less than humans," she said.
Rickford Burke, president of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy, suggested there was a double standard for city employees, with most municipal agencies requiring workers to live within the city, but not the uniformed services. He also argued against another requirement, that NYPD officers must be U.S. citizens, saying this discouraged immigrant diversity.
Burke thinks bigotry will remain a problem unless police reforms are instituted.