It's not terribly comforting to find out that the Fraternal Order of Police -- once again -- is asking that Philly cops be exempted from a rule that they actually live in Philly:
FOP vice president John McGrody said that the union has presented evidence and testimony about ending the residency requirement to a three-member arbitration panel considering terms of the new police contract.
McGrody said that police officers and their families told the arbitration panel about wanting better educational opportunities for their kids in the suburbs and facing threats from people in their neighborhoods for their police work.
"Our position is: It would be good for our members and their families," McGrody said. "Our members signed up for this job. Not their families."
This is a bad idea. For one thing, it's a terrible signal that the FOP is sending to the rest of the city: We'll protect you if we must, but we sure as hell don't feel good about living with you. There's already plenty of alienation between cops and whole communities in Philly; that won't be helped if Philadelphians see the cops as outsiders and if the cops see Philadelphia as a place where "other" people live. It frankly lessens their investment in trying to make the city as good a place to live as it can be.
It's here that America's "surge" in Iraq might be seen as a useful guide to local law enforcement. The surge didn't work -- to the extent that it did -- merely because there were more American troops on the ground. It worked because those troops moved off of large operating bases outside Iraqi cities and into neighborhoods. Rather than "commuting to the war," American troops lived alongside the Iraqi civilians they were charged with protecting. That helped create better relationships between the troops and civilians, which in turn led to better intelligence -- and less support -- for the insurgents.
I won't suggest that Philly cops be required to live in the precincts where they serve; it would be too complicated, and I'm guessing there'd be a wholesale rebellion. But right now, they have a minimum requirement that they actually live in the city they serve. If that's too burdensome, maybe they should turn their jobs over to Philadelphians who do want to serve the city where they live.