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Should law enforcement have to live where they work? County questions residency rules

A Monroe County Sheriff's Office cruiser
Brian Sharp
A Monroe County Sheriff's Office cruiser

County officials have proposed a law that would loosen residency requirements for Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol deputies.

A state law stipulates that deputies in sheriff’s offices across New York must live in the county that employs them. The proposed law, submitted to the county Legislature by County Executive Adam Bello and Sheriff Todd Baxter, would allow deputies to live in Monroe and its contiguous counties.

“What we’re trying to do is get on an even playing field with all the other police departments in the area,” said Undersheriff Korey Brown.

Other police agencies in the Rochester area do not have residency restrictions, which Brown said puts the Sheriff’s Office at a disadvantage when it’s trying to recruit and hire new deputies. Brown said it’s common for applicants to the Sheriff's Office to simultaneously pursue positions at other local departments and that residency restrictions have cost the office desired candidates.

The restriction has cost the office some existing employees as well. Recently, two deputies had to resign because they each needed to move to a neighboring county to handle family responsibilities, Brown said.

The Road Patrol has 229 deputy positions, and 224 are filled. Brown said he’s aware of at least two retirements on the horizon.

Whether law enforcement officers should be required to reside in the communities they serve has been a hotly debated question since the dawn of modern police forces more than a century ago. Supporters of the requirements have argued that when police live where they work, they get to know their communities better and are more sensitive toward the residents.

Several studies, however, have cast doubt on whether residency restrictions make much difference. A 2021 study out of DePaul University used statistics to analyze the relationship between residency requirements, violent crime, and citizen complaints against police officers.

“Essentially, the data revealed statistical evidence that a residency requirement does not have an effect on violent crime or citizen complaints,” the report stated.

Other New York counties have passed measures similar to the one in front of the county Legislature. Madison, Tompkins, and Chenango counties are among them.

Last year, Monroe County relaxed residency requirements for its jail deputies, who were required to live in the county under the same law that the road patrol deputies are still subject to.

Jeremy Moule is a deputy editor with WXXI News. He also covers Monroe County.
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