Baltimore Mayor Pugh endorses bill in Maryland legislature to require police brass to live in city

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Tuesday that she supports legislation in the General Assembly to require about 50 Baltimore police commanders to live in the city.

The legislation in Annapolis — needed because the Baltimore Police Department is technically a state agency — is sponsored by state Sen. Cory McCray, a Baltimore Democrat. It would enable the mayor and City Council to require those at the rank of captain or above to live in Baltimore.

“We have no more important work than re-establishing trust between our police officers and residents of our city,” Pugh said in a statement endorsing the bill.

She added that her choice for police commissioner, former New Orleans chief Michael Harrison, shares her view. Harrison will start Feb. 11 as acting commissioner.

A lobbyist for the state police union testified Tuesday in favor of the legislation, which would grandfather in existing commanders. It does not apply to rank-and-file officers.

Just a handful of senior commanders live in the city, according to the addresses they provided when filing ethics disclosure forms with the city. Only 10 of 53 leaders, ranked captain or higher, in city salary records as of June 30 listed a city address. Filings for four officers were not available.

State Sen. Michael Hough, a Frederick County Republican, questioned whether the bill would hurt hiring.

“Policy-wise, why would you want to do that?” Hough asked. “Wouldn’t it be a disincentive? Isn’t the city having a hard time recruiting officers?”

McCray said police officers who live in the city would be better integrated into the neighborhoods they police.

“Those who live in the community have more of an investment in that community,” McCray said.

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told The Baltimore Sun that there is no research showing requiring commanders to live in the city would improve their performance.

“A police department going through major reforms should never limit its leadership talent pool,” Davis said.

The city is working to reform the department under a court-ordered consent decree after the U.S. Justice Department found unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

City leaders have been seeking in recent years to encourage officers to live closer to the communities they patrol, hosting tours of neighborhoods and approving a $2,500 property tax credit in 2017.

The city has a new residency requirement for top City Hall officials that is similar to the one McCray has proposed for police leaders. It covers about 150 positions of supervisors who report directly to either the mayor or to an agency head and who are at-will employees.

Baltimore Sun reporters Ian Duncan and Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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