Saturday marks the second of four days’ worth of new protests in Ferguson, Mo. against the handling of the case of Mike Brown, an 18-year-old African American shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. The protesters are demanding a trial for Wilson, 28, and are hoping to raise awareness about excessive police force.
At the time of the shooting in August, Wilson was believed to be living 30 minutes south of Ferguson in the town of Crestwood. In the wake of the Brown case, some analysts have suggested police officers would be more effective if they lived in the communities they serve. Most police departments have some residency requirement, but they have long been resisted or outright flouted by officers. The St. Louis Police’s residency requirement only applies to new hires; a Missouri judge ruled in 2005 that officers with more than seven years’ experience can live outside the city. It is not clear whether the city of Ferguson’s police force has its own requirement.
Do most cops in fact live away from the areas they serve? And do the numbers change according to race? The main determinant of city segregation is income, but police officers generally have the same middle class job, so one might think that police, white, black, or hispanic, would tend to congregate in the same general towns and neighborhoods.
Fusion compiled 2010 county and place-level Census data for seven major cities to show whether police officers tend to live in the areas in which they work, and how this changes by race.
It turns out that in most cases, cops do not live in the cities in which they serve. But African American cops are far more likely to live in their service areas than white cops.
First, here’s the percentage of cops who live inside and outside the cities they serve. Only in New York City and Chicago, the largest and third-largest cities in the country, do an overwhelming majority of cops live in the city they serve. In St. Louis it's about 50-50.
Next, here is the racial breakdown of the police officers working in the seven cities. At 84 percent, St. Louis has a higher percentage of white police officers than any other city on the list, even though its population is 23 percent black.
Finally, here’s the geographic breakdown by race. In St. Louis, 100 percent of black police officers live in St. Louis County, compared with fewer than half of white officers.
Unfortunately, in most cases, the Census data are not detailed enough to show which specific neighborhoods police officers tend to congregate.
But it’s clear there is a firm divide within police forces about where to live, both as a whole and between officers of different races, despite their apparent socioeconomic parity.
A grand jury has until January to decide whether Wilson will be charged.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.