The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday directed staff to explore offering incentives that would encourage police officers to live in city limits.

Fewer than one in 10 Minneapolis cops lives in the city, a recent Star Tribune analysis showed, and some residents and community organizers argue that officers would be better able to serve if they lived in Minneapolis.

Calls for officers to live in the neighborhoods they police intensified in the wake of Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s fatal shooting by a police officer in July.

State law forbids cities from requiring police officers — or any employees — to live in the city they serve.

“However, there is room to provide incentives. I think it’s worth exploring,” said Council Member Jacob Frey, who put the item on the agenda Friday. “Collectively, we’ve been talking about this for a while. It’s high time that we do something.”

Frey said the council is open to the idea of residency incentives, though he doesn’t know what staff’s recommendations will be. Finding some way to help police officers with rent — which could perhaps be in the interest of landlords — is one possibility, he said.

Staff will report back to the City Council by Oct. 31.

Several community leaders have called for more police to live in Minneapolis.

“It would help if the police officer did live there, because he’s able or she’s able to experience firsthand what goes on in the community,” said Diana Hawkins, executive director of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council. “A lot of police officers will tell you, ‘I might live in St. Louis Park, so I can’t relate to what’s going on in north Minneapolis.’ ”

In the late 1990s, the police union led a successful push to limit the power of Minneapolis and St. Paul to make their employees live where they work. Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the union, scoffed at the suggestion that if “you live in Richfield, so you’re not going to treat people the same.”

Still, “I have no problem with incentives,” Kroll said Thursday.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo indicated at a community meeting this week in south Minneapolis that police officer residency is not a top priority.

“Yes, it is nice to have more officers live in the city,” he told the crowd at Mercado Central, but he added that an officer’s willingness to serve the community mattered more than his or her home ZIP code. “Service is love. If you put this uniform on and run into harm’s way for someone you don’t know, you have to have love for your fellow human being.”

Minneapolis police officers already have incentive to build a house on the North Side.

Anyone can receive up to $20,000 to subsidize construction of a home there, under a pilot program approved by the City Council in February. Minneapolis police officers, firefighters and public school teachers are eligible for a little more — $25,000.

So far, Council Member Blong Yang said he doesn’t know of a police officer who has taken the city up on its offer.

 

adam.belz@startribune.com 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz

libor.jany@startribune.com 612-673-4064