It didn’t take long for City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy, perhaps the most astute politician on the council, to backtrack on requiring police officers to live in Greensboro.
The desire stated by Kennedy several times to require Greensboro police officers to live in the city was one of the main reasons for the City Council virtual work session on Tuesday, June 23.
Kennedy said that 64 percent of Greensboro police officers lived outside the city and she thought to have community policing the police had to live in the community.
However, Kennedy didn’t get support for that idea from her fellow councilmembers.
Police Chief Brian James said, “I understand the spirit of the idea of everyone living in the city.”
However, he added, “I think it would diminish the quality of our applicants.”
James said that he thought perhaps the most important thing was to get the right people and that putting that restriction on the Greensboro Police Department, particularly when the other cities and counties in the area had no such restriction, would make recruiting more difficult.
He also noted that, not necessarily for patrol officers but for some other officers, it was a good idea to have a little distance between their homes and their work.
Councilmember Goldie Wells said, “I commuted for nine years to Statesville. I didn’t live there but I still became a part of that community.”
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I’m not sure we should be spending all this time on where police officers lay their heads.”
Kennedy said that some of the older people she had talked to said that in the 1980s the police all lived in town.
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “When people talk about the ’80s, I mean that is 40 years ago and we are living in a different world.”
The talk of forcing police officers to live in Greensboro became a discussion of assigning cars to officers and letting them take the cars home as an incentive to have them live in town.
James said that although there would an upfront expense of purchasing more vehicles, in the long run the city may save money because the cars would have to be replaced less often. He said that patrol cars typically last three years, while other vehicles that are assigned to officers last an average of six years.
Assistant City Manager Trey Davis said that when officers are assigned their own cars they take better care of them, which could also save the city money in the long run.
The council didn’t reach any decision except that they weren’t going to force police officers to live in the city.