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The issue of residency for Buffalo Police resurfaces at Common Council meeting

Mike Desmond
Buffalo's Common Council met virtually Tuesday.

The old fight about a residency requirement for Buffalo Police officers is surfacing again, because local activists are demanding it and Albany is looking at legislation allowing the city to mandate that officers live in the city.

In Tuesday's Common Council meeting, the North District's Joe Golombek said the key issue is that cops accept a good paycheck and then spend it outside of Buffalo.

"In a perfect world, I would never support a residency requirement. In a perfect world, people should be able to live wherever they want to, so on and so forth. But the reality of the situation is that we don't live in a perfect world and if you want to work for the City of Buffalo and make very, very fair wages, I believe that you ought to be a resident," he said.

It is routine in suburban communities, where many Buffalo officers live, to require their officers to be residents. Buffalo Police are against a residency rule.

It was in the most recent Police Benevolent Association contract, but the contract rule requiring officers to live in the city in their first seven years went away when the contract expired last year. That contract is a separate and related issue because members of the Common Council have some ideas about what they want in a replacement contract and they have final approval.

The University District's Rasheed Wyatt said residency is key to changing the Police Department and policing in Buffalo.

"Myriad of issues that must be addressed. When we talk about residency, given that we have a contract in which officers, depending on their status, are able to drive out to Orchard Park with a city vehicle, with city gas on a taxpayer's dime, oh, no, how did we allow that to happen? That doesn't even make any sense," Wyatt said.

"Some new officers may feel it's dangerous to live in the City of Buffalo," said Council President Darius Pridgen. "If a police officer feels it's dangerous to live in the City of Buffalo but wants to receive taxpayer dollars, I do take issue with that."

Activists say officers might be more anxious to do something about violence if it potentially affects them personally.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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