UTICA, NY (WUTR-TV) — The Utica Police Department is currently in the process of lobbying for change in the residency law.
Under the current residency law, all Utica police officers need to live within city limits. And because of tha, Utica Police Chief, Mark Williams, says the department struggles to find recruits due to the City’s residency restrictions.
The Utica Police Benevolent Association sent a letter to the Utica Common Council. Currently, the department has 161 sworn men and women actively employed. The set complement for full staffing is 165. The department is currently operating at a four employee shortage. 14 of those 161 are eligible to retire at any point they choose, and several additional officers are actively on other recruiting lists or actively seeking employment outside of the City of Utica.
Since at least 1986, the City of Utica had a residency requirement in its statutes. This requirement was rarely, if ever applied, and when it was it was sporadic without concern for the overall uniformity of its employees.
Beginning in 2004, all new employees of the Utica Police Department were required to sign a promissory notice acknowledging the law and attesting that they would abide by it. The Police Department was the only city entity requiring this as a condition of employment at the time.
In 2008, two officers decided to challenge the requirement and purchased residences outside of the City. As a result of this, the administration sought to terminate these employees for violating the terms of their employment. The Utica Common Council put the issue to a public referendum. The vote was in favor of a residency requirement. Going into effect Jan. 1. 2009, any employee hired by the City of Utica must reside in within the City limits for the duration of their employment.
The Utica Fire Department does not fall under the same residency restrictions.
During the last few weeks, Chief Williams along with other members of the Police Department has spoken with council members and voiced their concerns to residents at public forums. Chief Williams says some residents want officers to continue to live in the City and others do not mind to change the restrictions.
If passed by the Utica Common Council, officers will be able to live outside city limits.