Austin officials are mulling the idea of paying police officers to move from the suburbs to the city, reports the city’s American-Statesman. In a first step, police union representatives this week approved a tentative change in their labor contract allowing the city to come up with various options, including a one-time moving expense payment, monthly stipends for owning a home in the city or a month of free rent for apartment dwellers. Despite being among the highest-paid officers in the nation, only about a quarter of Austin's 1,737 sworn officers live inside the city limits.
The compensation idea rekindle a years-old debate about whether police officers should live in the city they patrol. Proponents who say officers should be strongly encouraged — if not required — to live in the city limits generally contend it enhances public safety because they can become more familiar with the issues affecting their communities and are capable of responding to emergencies more quickly by cutting commute times. They also say officers who reside in the city provide indirect benefits, such as the ability to participate in municipal elections and other civic events.