More than 1,000 Philadelphia police officers have abandoned city living since the department’s residency rules were softened five years ago, Philly.com reports. Many were lured to the suburbs by the prospect of better schools, cleaner streets, and safer neighborhoods. The figure, based on a Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News analysis of payroll data, represents about 15 percent of the nearly 6,000 eligible officers, a tally likely to grow each year.
In 2010, the officers union won a battle to end the residency requirement for members with at least five years on the job. Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies earned the same right a year ago, but most of the rest of the 30,000 municipal workers must be Philadelphians. The police union tried to end the requirement altogether in negotiations for the three-year pact that was approved this summer, but the administration of Mayor Jim Kenney opposed it. The mayor says losing high-paid city workers — the average salary for police officers who have moved out of the city is about $75,000 — weakens the property-tax base and ultimately harms city schools. “They should hang in the neighborhoods and help make the schools better,” said Kenney, a lifelong city resident. “All of our residents need to pitch in and help with our schools.”