Now it's the law: To work for the Salt Lake City Police Department, new hires will have to be residents or agree to move into the city within 18 months of joining the force.

A majority of City Council was unconvinced by arguments that a residency requirement would diminish the number and quality of applicants for jobs on the police force.The council voted 4-2 to require officers hired after Dec. 15 to be or become residents within 11/2 years of accepting a job.

"I realize in a few specific cases this will make hardships for people," said council member Alan Hardman, who pushed for the requirement.

But thousands of people across the country make career choices that require them to relocate. If law enforcement is a significant goal in applicants' lives and they desire to work for Salt Lake City, new officers should be willing to live in the city, Hardman said.

Hardman said that city residents who pay for police programs, particularly the car-per-officer policy that allows officers to take vehicles home, deserve the benefits. Hard-man said he believes having more police vehicles parked in city neighborhoods will help deter crime.

He also said that as residents, officers will be better able to understand and interact with the resi-dents they serve.

The numbers, council members who supported the measure said, are on the city's side. When the city announced it would hire 50 new officers during the coming year, nearly 1,200 people signed up to take the police officer test; just over 700 actually took the test.

According to Councilman Tom Godfrey, 256 people passed the written test and 152 passed the physical. The city sent letters to the top 50 applicants informing them the city planned to establish a residency requirement.

Forty-eight individuals wrote back saying they were still interested in the jobs, Godfrey said.

"I think we're still getting the cream of the crop applying for jobs in Salt Lake City," Godfrey said.

Godfrey recently attended the National League of Cities and Towns conference and said that residency requirements are the norm in cities across the country.

"Perception or reality, people are more comfortable seeing their police cars cruising around their city than some other part of the county," Godfrey said.

But the idea that the city can require new officers to be residents rankles some of those who've applied for jobs with the city.

"Do you feel you have the right to make life decisions for these officers," said Gwyn Richardsen, whose husband has applied for a job on the force.

David Greer, president of the Salt Lake Police Association, said the city can expect a fight over the issue in the future.

Greer told the Deseret News 25 of the 48 police applicants who told the city they'll become residents if they're hired plan to "accept the job and then sue after 18 months."

During the meeting Greer said the city was placing "impossible burdens on those who want to be part of our department."

Some uniformed officers who attended Tuesday's meeting apparently didn't care for the council's action. Four officers stormed from the meeting after the council's vote.

In the hallway outside the Council Chambers the officers stared straight ahead without breaking stride when the Deseret News asked if they'd care to comment on the decision.

"Not with this chief," one officer called back over his shoulder, referring to Police Chief Ruben Ortega.

The police administration voiced support for the residency requirement and said they could see benefits to it.