Requiring police officers to live in the city where they work isn't a popular notion with Utahns.
Sixty-four percent of the people surveyed for a Deseret News/KSL TV poll said police officers and county deputy sheriffs should not be required to live in the city that employs them.The Salt Lake City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposal to require police officers hired after Dec. 15 to be residents of the city.
Of the city's 358 sworn officers, only 62 live in the city. Most of the city's officers - 280 - take marked vehicles home; only 38 of those officers live in Salt Lake City.
That irks some council members, who believe that city residents should benefit from the programs they fund. One-third of the city's $100 million general-fund budget pays for police services, said Council Chairman Alan Hardman, who proposed the policy change.
Hardman also believes having police vehicles parked in the city's neighborhoods would help deter crime and that officers would be able to respond more readily in the event of an emergency.
"Some people have tried to portray this as a car issue, and yes, the car-per-officer is an issue here, but the larger issue is we want these officers living in our city, living on our streets, being our next-door neighbors," Hardman said.
Hardman questioned the value of the Deseret News poll to Salt Lake City's discussion because it was not limited to residents of the city. A poll exclusively of Salt Lake residents might have yielded different results, he said.
Of the 605 people polled, only 64 said they were residents of Salt Lake City. Another 241 peoplesaid they were Salt Lake County residents.
"I know from talking to a lot of my constituents they are overwhelmingly in favor of it, and those are really the only numbers that make any difference to me," Hardman said.
But Councilman Stuart Reid, who opposes the proposed policy, said the poll results are in line with comments he has heard from residents.
"I told you so," Reid said. "People are more concerned about the quality of police officers (than) the issue of where they live."
Reid said people fear the policy would diminish the quality of recruits because it would restrict the pool of applicants.
"Clearly the people are supportive of hiring those who cannot live in the city, clearly this policy will impact negatively on the quality of the officers and it's wrong to subject some police officers to an unfair policy that's not equally applied," Reid said.
The Salt Lake City Police Association raises similar arguments against the policy, but the Salt Lake City Police Department administration has voiced support.
And a majority of the council supported the initiative in November, when Hardman asked the administration to draft a residency policy.
Councilman Keith Christensen said he continues to support the policy and believes there are enough votes to get it passed by the council.
"I believe there is a sufficient advantage to having our police officers live in the city, particularly when they take a car home," he said. "If I take the car out of the equation, I'm not as strong about it. But I just have a hard time spending the money we spend to let these guys take cars all over creation."
Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini says she would rather entice officers to live in the city than require their residency.
"I share with the council the objective of having all city employees live in the city, particularly our police officers," Corradini said. "However, with the limited housing stock currently available, I prefer using the carrot rather than the stick approach."
Corradini said the city continues to develop housing and rental programs aimed at getting employees - especially police officers - to live in the city.
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the poll of 605 people Nov. 29-30. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Deseret News/KSL poll
In your opinion, should city police officers and county deputy sheriffs be required to live in the jurisdictions in which they work?
Probably not 64%
Don't know 5%
If probably: Do you feel ALL employees of a city or county should be required to live in the jurisdiction in which they work?
Probably not 38%
Don't know 4%
Poll conducted Nov. 29-30, 1994. Margin of error +- 4.01% on interviews of 605 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret news and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.