AFTER 20 YEARS, TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR

St. Louis Police Board commissioner Eddie Roth proposes waiving the city-residency requirement for policemen with 20 years' service

Just what was Police Board commissioner Eddie Roth thinking about? At first glance, his proposal to waive the residency requirement for police officers with 20 years on the force doesn't make much sense: By that time in their careers, most cops don't have to worry about sending their kids to school, and most of the ones who hate living in the city have left. So what's the point? Well, aside from the fact that the residency rule is archaic and counterproductive, of the approximately 1,600 city cops, about 275 have been on the force since before May 28, 1973, when the rule was enacted, and are allowed to live outside the city. In the next five years, many of them will reach the 30-year mark, and Roth expects most of them, with extra incentive to retire, to quit. His proposal would give approximately the same number of police, who by then are reaching the 20-year mark, the option of living where they want. Without that option, Roth fears, the force will have fewer and fewer experienced senior officers. If nothing is changed, many 20-year cops who can bail and get half-a-salary's worth of pension per year will take the money and run. The proposal will likely come up for a vote Wednesday, but it's doubtful that Roth has the three votes he needs on the five-member commission. The loquacious Roth describes the residency rule as the "crutch that convinces us of our own disability." Say what? One thing is for sure: Hardly any politician whose income depends on an election will oppose the residency requirement, or support the 20-year exemption, which Roth describes as "a modest proposal that will have a modest effect."

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