BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — In an effort to improve policing on the streets of Buffalo, two state lawmakers are proposing a residency requirement for newly hired Buffalo Police officers.
State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and State Senator Tim Kennedy have proposed bills in the state legislature for a local law that would require new hires to the police force to be city of Buffalo residents.
In a letter to Buffalo Common Council president Darius Pridgen, Peoples-Stokes wrote
"I introduced this legislation because I truly believe that with a shift over time to eventually have all police officers be residents of our great city, there will be better outcomes for the entire community. The officers will be more familiar, committed, and invested in seeing the people and the city itself succeed, and people will know that officers are their neighbors and part of the same community. A greater foundation of mutual respect will be built,” wrote Peoples-Stokes.
This bill would not apply to current city cops. There was a past seven-year residency requirement for Buffalo Police officers, but that ended when the current police contract expired.
“To me this is about building better relationships,” declared Darius Pridgen, president, Buffalo Common Council.
Pridgen says he's in supports the bills before the state legislature “100-percent.”
“To me - this is more about building relationships with the people who can stop you and stop your freedom, so I don't seeing as being a mandate to hurt anybody,” Pridgen explained.
Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans tells 7 Eyewitness News he’s not in support of a new residency rule. Evans says many city officers fear for their safety and the safety of their family members.
“Today's world — is a safety issue for police officers. It's popular now to harass them,” remarked Evans.
Evans says he wants the community to be better educated how officers respond to calls and the reason someone might be asked to "put their hands behind their back”.
“Police officers - we don't go to a call in the hopes of of being compelled to use force,” Evans described.
“If a police officer feels it’s dangerous to live in the city of Buffalo, but want to receive taxpayer dollars — I do take issue with that,” Pridgen said.
At Tuesday’s Common Council session, Pridgen presented the the effort to lawmakers in hopes a resolution will be created to support a residency rule for police.
Masten District lawmaker Ulysees Wingo says police should live in the city and addressed the issue of police fears.
“Well if you built the relationship with the community, you wouldn't have have anything to worry about,” Wingo said.
Wingo noted common council members must live in the city.
“We have to live in our district. I couldn’t live in Delaware if I wanted to. I couldn’t live in Ellicott or University if I wanted to,” Wingo stated.
Pridgen said he believes people should be able to live wherever they want, however, if they’re a Buffalo cop, they should be living in the city.
“If you want to be in East Aurora and you want to be a police officer — then go to East Aurora. If you want to live in Lancaster, then go to Lancaster,” Pridgen replied.
“There’s some people that would like to live in a more rural setting versus the urban,” Evans replied. “It takes that option away from the get go.
”The state legislation would give the city the ability to write a residency law.
“It would bypass any contract negations because it would be law, now whether the contract would supersede the law — that’s something for somebody else to decided,” Pridgen explained.
Pridgen said now that the police union contract has expired, this is the right time to discuss a residency policy.
Evans said the way the state bill is drafted, the residency issue would be taken out of police contract negotiations.
“Our concern is, the way it is drafted, it would take it out of the contract negations,” Evans stated. “This basically strips us of that issue.”
As for current police contract talks, Evans says they will be meeting again with city leaders on August 5th.