Did you know that NYPD officers aren’t allowed to live in the precincts they patrol? It’s true! Which makes you wonder: Where do the majority of cops rest their heads at night?
Alex Bell, who you may remember as the hero who sued UPS for allowing its trucks to park all over Harlem’s bike lanes, is still doing the Lord’s work, and recently received the results of a Freedom of Information Act request inquiring where the city’s nearly 35,000 uniformed police officers go when they’re done…doing whatever they do all day.
Here’s the breakdown:
In order to get the data, Bell not only filed a FOIL request with the NYPD — he took legal action.
“I sent a FOIL request, which was promptly rejected. Then I appealed, and it was rejected again,” he told the Voice. Following the second rejection, Bell decided to file a lawsuit, enlisting the help of a lawyer who was a family member. “It just didn’t seem like something they should be holding on to so strongly,” he said. After some initial wrangling, the NYPD finally agreed to release the data.
Bell notes that despite the residency rules, four percent of officers nevertheless live in the areas they patrol. Or do they? Bell said he regularly sees cars bearing New Jersey plates parked around his local precinct, which makes you wonder whether they’re listing local addresses as their homes while living in unapproved areas. (New Jersey.) In addition to the city itself, police are allowed to live in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, or Orange counties.
Another interesting takeaway from the data is where officers live in relation to the precincts they work. Cops who cover Harlem, for example, tend to live upstate, while cops who work on Staten Island…tend to live on Staten Island, but in the opposite zip code than the one in which they work. There’s also a racial divide: According to a 2014 piece from Five Thirty Eight, 77 percent of black New York police and 76 percent of Hispanic police live in the city. The same is true for only 45 percent of white officers.
The rule barring police from living where they work is ostensibly to eliminate favoritism — you’d be less inclined to arrest your neighbor, for example. Still, Bell wonders whether allowing cops to emotionally invest in their neighborhoods by living there wouldn’t result in more cohesion with the communities that they serve.
Asked why officers can’t live in the precincts they cover (and what repercussions they face if they do), an NYPD spokesperson sent the following statement:
The NYPD does not permit uniformed members of the service assigned to the Housing Bureau to be assigned to a police service area that patrols public housing developments in a precinct in which the member resides. Uniformed members of the service are not permitted to be assigned to their resident precinct.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 21, 2016