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NYPD Commissioner Sewell says cops don’t have to live in the city to be good officers

Police officers invested in the neighborhoods they patrol matter more than where they live, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Wednesday.

“If he works in the city and has a position in this city, I want that officer to have an investment in that community, no matter where he lives,” Sewell said at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast. “Whether I live in that community or not, when I come to work, those are my people. This is my community. I am responsible for this block. I am responsible for this neighborhood, so that connection is very important to me.”

Mayor Adams had a different opinion.

“Police officers need to come from the communities that they are policing, particularly in a place like New York,” Adams said hours later, noting the change in law needed to require police officers to live within the five boroughs.

“I am a great believer and have always believed that our law enforcement personnel should be in New York City,” the mayor said. “It’s really about understanding the diversity of the city.”

Adams in January 2022 said that Sewell was working on a program to encourage police officers to move to the city or stay in the city. On Wednesday, the New York police and the city could not provide details about that initiative.

Mayor Eric Adams during a news conference at the New York Attorney General's Office in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday.

Sewell herself does not live in the city. He bought a Valley Stream home 16 years ago “six or seven blocks in Nassau County” and has said he would move to the city if the City Council ended the de Blasio-era executive order that halted the requirement that several city commissioners lived somewhere in the five boroughs.

He also said that he doesn’t spend a lot of time there.

“I think I live here in New York City more than anywhere else,” Sewell said. “The job demands it.”

A New York police officer appears in Manhattan on Wednesday.

NYPD officers have not been required to live in the city since the 1960s. About 48% of them as of last year were in the city, the rest lived on Long Island or north of the Bronx in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland or Orange counties.

Lawmakers at different points have pushed for the necessary law change to require police officers to live in the city, and police unions have said that police officers, whose salaries start at $42,500, do not earn enough to live in the city.

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