Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn recently said that more police should live in the city – an idea I’ve heard thrown around since I was a kid. What I have learned is this:
- Teachers don’t teach better because they live near the school. They either have a passion for teaching or they don’t.
- Firefighters don’t fight fire and render medical aid any better based on how far they commute to work.
- Water department doesn’t pump out a flooded street better because he/she woke up that morning within the city limits.
The same goes for police.
Like anyone else in a job like this: We do what we do because we were meant to do it, and doing it well gives us satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
I spend at least half my waking hours in the ‘hood I patrol, often more. In a typical 24-hour period, I spend as much time here as most of the residents of the ‘hood who work in another part of town. I have always worked here. I feel as plugged-in to the south end as anyone here… more than some.
However, I would NOT want my neighborhood officers where I am to live in the immediate area. That opens up the possibility (or perception of) favoritism towards familiar neighbors and loss of objectivity. Also, officers living in their patrol areas are easy targets for threats and intimidation from criminals.
Think of this: How would you feel if you knew the officer investigating a crime for you lived nearby, and the dirtbag you just identified as the perpetrator knew that too? I would be concerned…
Officers living in the areas where they work are usually mediocre/low performers, and very non-proactive officers. Not go-getters. I can’t point to proof of cause and effect, but I have my suspicions as to why that is.
That’s not who I want prowling up and down my street while I sleep.
And like teachers, firefighters, librarians, and others, cops want to live where they can get the most house for their buck. And usually that is not within the city proper. It does not make them care any less about what they do, or somehow detached from the mysterious tribe known as “seattlites”. It does help them be unafraid to arrest whoever needs arresting, however.
In fact, a lot of your friendly neighborhood South Precinct officers live over in West Seattle.