RECRUITING: An ordinance would add residency to requirements for Little Rock police recruits.
An ordinance has been proposed, drafted at the request of Director Erma Hendrix
, to require future Little Rock police officers
to be residents
of the city.
The ordinance, filed for this week's agenda meeting
, says a residency requirement would enhance "the ability to respond more quickly to City needs, especially in times of emergency" and "promote greater community involvement both during the work period and afterwards" and "enhance the overall quality of life within the community." The ordinance also notes that a new city sales tax provided additional pay for police and fire employees.
The ordinance would require someone to agree to become a resident if hired. The ordinance exempts current employees and applicants currently approved to participate in recruit training. It would give new hires 90 days to move into the city.
The proposal comes with no additional commentary from the city administration, except to say "staff recommends denial."
The idea has come up before and gotten nowhere. It has some surface appeal. Is the police force full of people so fearful of the city they serve that they don't want their families living here? One counter argument — in addition to freedom of residence — is that Little Rock is more expensive than some neighboring cities, though there are plenty of inexpensive neighborhoods. Then there's the explosive school issue and the interrelated matter of race.
I doubt this ordinance will get far, but it might — should — prompt some discussion about police-community relations. How many of the 500-plus officers are residents of Little Rock now? What's the racial breakdown of police residency? I wonder, too, if there's any correlation between residency and a propensity to use force in contact with the public? While we're at it, let's ask about the Fire Department, too.
City Manager Bruce Moore
the other day noted the huge arrest rate by police officers placed in schools, a figure that he believes needs to be brought down. All of this is part of the important question of how police view the populace — people to be protected or served or to be guarded closely like inmates.