Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman addressed the City Council Monday with the request to remove the 30-minute residency requirement for city police officers. The council approved the proposal.
The Police Department first considered the requirement in January 2015, which mandates that officers must live close enough to reach the Law Enforcement Center within half an hour. The policy was revisited this year after the Fire Department changed to its residency requirements in March to an hour for select personnel. Police officers then raised concerns about their requirement during one-on-one meetings with Pohlman.
The chief presented the council with a variety of reasons that officers and the department would be enhanced by eliminating the restrictions. The points included in the document prepared for the council include:
• There has been a reduction in applicant pools for patrol officers by approximately 60%.
• "Housing concerns and stress indicated by officers regarding the residency requirements."
• The 2015 "President's Report on 21st Century Policing," identified wellness of officers as one of the six pillars for healthy future law enforcement organizations.
• "Extending residency requirements to one hour does not eliminate the concern, employees are capable of determining what is an acceptable commuting distance."
"The job doesn't leave us," Pohlman told the council during his presentation. Even when officers leave the office, they still carry what they saw and had to interact with during their work day. The police chief explained that it is important for officers to be able to unwind in a place that they call home.
One statistic that the police chief presented was the increase in suicides and suicide attempts within Red Wing. In 2018 the city hit a high of 120 attempted suicides; that is more than two per week to which officers respond.
Pohlman noted that "no single remedy will ease the stress for everyone." However, lifting the residency restrictions may ease stress for some employees. He also told the council: "The biggest part of recruiting is the spouse, by and large."
A potential officer's spouse or significant other may not want, or be able to move within a required radius. This could result in a smaller pool of potential patrol officers.
The Personnel Committee voted on June 6 to support a one-hour residency restriction for the department. Council member Becky Norton, who sits on the committee, dissented from that decision because she believes that there should be no radius. She explained that a set radius would exclude potential candidates that live 65 or 70 minutes from Red Wing.
Council President Dean Hove was in favor of extending the radius to 60 minutes but not removing the restrictions entirely. He explained that if officers work 12 or 14 hour shifts and then drive more than an hour one way, they may not be able to get the rest that they need throughout the week.
The council voted to remove a residency restriction 6-1; Hove dissented.
Before voting, Council member Erin Buss stated that along with everything that Pohlman had presented and the council stated, she would support removing the requirements because it is important for her to have a more diverse police department and this may encourage a more diverse pool to apply for job openings.