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Police Residency Requirements (Or Why I Love Police Twitter)

The other week the Globe and Mail published an article that looked at Toronto police officer residency (based on postal codes of officer addresses obtained through Freedom of Information). From this, they concluded that “three quarters of Toronto cops live outside the city.” This fact was seen as a problem by the Globe and Mail, which cited Justice Tulloch’s recent comments in his report on street checks:

Given the emphasis on community-based policing, I believe it is beneficial to have police officers hired to work in the community in which they live, and I make a recommendation that efforts be made by police services to hire people who live within the city or region they will serve (Tulloch 2019).

This view was also supported as follows:

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable point of view, except for one thing: there is absolutely no strong evidence to show that police officer residency is tied to:

  • More effectiveness as a police officer

  • The adoption of a more community-oriented approach to policing

  • Better attitudes towards local communities

  • Increased emotional intelligence when dealing with local people

  • Much of anything.

In short, this is what we call in the trade, “an opinion.”

In response to my opinion this is an opinion, my colleague Ken Novak at UKMC, similarly noted the dearth of evidence on this issue. He also shared this one:

Drawing on the results of two surveys, what these researchers concluded was:

This study indicates (tentatively) that residency requirements have a negative impact on citizen'sConfidence in the ability of the police to protect them. Because our residency requirement variable included officers who reside within the municipality, the county, or some other venue (other than the state generally), it is possible that the critics of residence requirements are correct: the limitation on hiring pools, for example, could lead to poor personnel choices and a less qualified commissioned officer corp.

TL/DR: residency requirements ARE not a great idea if you’re interested in community policing.

I think, however, there might be more, and perhaps better, ways to tackle this issue – and tackle it we should!

My suggestion was, as described by Dave Jones (EPS), to throw "convention out the window.”

Crazy, right? Instead of guessing residency was a good idea, or drawing inferences from surveys, why not actually ask people about their views of local police officers and where they live.

And then an even crazier idea appeared on the horizon, when “SChad” came up with an innovation that could also help us get even closer to the core of the issue:

I assume the majority of the officer's yearly performance measures/evaluations are good? (Internally) contrast their performance measures to the address on their HR material.

And that kids, is why I love police Twitter. There are some excellent researchers and "cop-methodologists" out in the police Twitter community. And, because of these people, we don't need to just have 'opinions' on researchable policy questions, we can actually have ... you know, research.

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