Less than 4 percent of York City Police officers live in the city

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
York City Police Chief Troy Bankert is surrounded by family after he accepted the position during a police ceremony at York City Hall Monday, June 11, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Less than 4 percent of York City Police officers live in the community they serve, according to officials. 

Four out of the 102 officers reside within city limits, including Chief Troy Bankert, who is required to be a resident, Bankert said. The rest of the department is not required to live in the city. 

Some residents and officials said it might be beneficial if more cops lived in the city, but the police union president disagrees. 

At one time the city implemented the requirement, but it was lifted years ago. Jeremy Mayer, president of Fraternal Order of Police No. 15, said the rule hasn't been in place since he joined the department 18 years ago.

The union would be "totally opposed" to bringing it back, he said. 

The department hires as part of a consortium of multiple departments. The residency requirement would significantly impact the pool of eligible applicants, Mayer said.

"We’re competing against all those departments who don’t have the residency requirement, so it really limits those who don’t live in the city — or don’t even live in the county — and are just looking to come find a law enforcement job," he said. 

Applicants are more apt to choose a job where they're not required to move within a certain period of time, he said. 

Detective Jeremy Mayer

The issue is not a lack of police officers residing York City — they just work elsewhere, according to city resident and business owner Antwoine Dorm. Three or four parents at his gym, Stick N Move Boxing on West Market Street, are police officers — but they work in Baltimore, he said. 

"It's always been on the tip of my tongue, 'Why not here?'" he said.

Mayer said he is unsure what the legalities would be for preferential treatment of resident applicants. 

'What happens after you clock out?' The gap is relativity new, according to Dorm. When he was growing up, police officers used to be part of the community and went beyond their 9 to 5 duties, he said. Dorm remembers an officer who lived around the corner from him who would host cookouts, take kids camping and toss a football around. 

"I'm not saying they're not doing their job on the clock, but what happens after you clock out?" Dorm said. 

Dorm offers an after-school youth boxing program with an aim to prevent youth violence in the city. While there are several efforts that can be made on behalf of the city to reduce gun violence — for example, focusing on the source of where kids are getting guns — one would be to have more community officers, Dorm said. 

York City Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Williams Park in York City, Sunday, March 24, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City has a pattern of youth gun violence, which officials noted has picked up again as the weather has warmed up. Police said a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old were injured Sunday, March 24, in a shooting in Williams Park. 

The city needs more officers who "would actually be invested in the community, officers that would want a safe environment for their own sons or daughters," Dorm said. 

"If I had to travel out of the way to teach boxing, once I clock out I clock out. I'm not staying. I think that's the problem; we need more police officers from here," he said. 

Experts and activists have often expressed a similar sentiment, claiming that residency requirements improve relations between police and the community.

York City Council President Henry Nixon, a Democrat, said it would be "transformational" to have police officers, firefighters and teachers who live within the city. 

But he doesn't see that happening anytime soon. 

"That door was opened many, many years ago, and I don't know that it can be closed," he said, adding that he could not remember when exactly the requirement was lifted. 

But he's not opposed to having more police officers live in the city.

"I think people ought to want to live in the city, just as I do. I could choose to live elsewhere, but I don't. I love the city and I love living in the city," he said. 

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The overwhelmingly white, male York City Police force also doesn't reflect the community it polices. In August, city spokesman Philip Given said 87.2 percent of the then-109 officers were white men. In the most recent census data, 66.3 percent of the York City population identified as a race other than white. 

Mayer said in his 18 years in law enforcement, he's known officers who live inside and outside of the jurisdictions they serve. It doesn't impact their work, he said. 

"I’ve seen no significant benefits or mindset of police officers that, just because they don’t live within the community they patrol, that they do less work or don’t care about the community," he said.

"Law enforcement want to protect the community ... protect the residents to the best of their ability," Mayer added. 

Councilman Michael Buckingham, a Democrat seeking re-election, said it's beneficial to have any city employee live in the city — but he doesn't think it's a necessity. 

Buckingham said residents should get preference for police and other city employment hiring.  

"Other than that, I'm in favor of making sure we get the most qualified people in those positions," he said. 

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_.