More than 1,000 Philadelphia police officers have abandoned city living since the department's residency rules were softened five years ago — many lured to the suburbs by the prospect of better schools, cleaner streets, and safer neighborhoods.
The figure, based on an Inquirer and Daily News analysis of payroll data, represents about 15 percent of the nearly 6,000 eligible officers, a tally likely to grow each year.
In 2010, their union won a battle to end the residency requirement for members with at least five years on the job. The rule went into effect five years ago. Firefighters and sheriff's deputies earned the same right a year ago, but most of the rest of the 30,000 municipal workers must be Philadelphians.
The exodus could have been even more pronounced. The police union tried to end the requirement altogether in negotiations for the three-year pact that was approved this summer, but the Kenney administration opposed it. Among its complaints: Losing high-paid city workers — the average salary for police officers who have moved out of the city is about $75,000 — weakens the property-tax base and ultimately harms city schools.
"They should hang in the neighborhoods and help make the schools better," said Mayor Kenney, a lifelong city resident who now lives in Old City. "All of our residents need to pitch in and help with our schools."
Better schools in the suburbs are part of the draw, some officers say.
"Unfortunately, we had to go," said a 20-year lieutenant who moved with his family to Bucks County three years ago. He asked not to be identified because he said he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. "I couldn't foresee taking that gamble of hoping your kid gets into a charter school" in the city.