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Officers in Calif. city can’t afford to live in community they serve

Not a single officer working for the Atherton Police Department have ever lived in the city, where the median price of a home is nearly $7 million

By Police1 Staff

ATHERTON, Calif. — Officers serving in a California police department are forced to endure long commutes because they cannot afford to live in the city they serve.

CBS San Francisco reports that not a single officer working for the Atherton Police Department have ever lived in the city, where the median price of a home is nearly $7 million. Due to the high cost of living, several officers have long commutes and need a place to crash after a long shift.

For years, police and emergency dispatchers had crashed between shifts at a three-bedroom home owned by the town of Atherton.

But the home was recently taken back by the city, forcing the officers and emergency dispatchers into a much smaller space, which is tucked away inside the Atherton PD.

The new space, where employees can rest after their 12-plus hour long shifts, has one twin bed and is nestled between the dry cleaning and jugs of water. Commander Joe Wade admits that it’s a modest accommodation, but added that their department is small.

Atherton police said they were the first in the nation to even have a sleep room. The department prioritized officer fatigue after a Santa Clara County deputy fell asleep while driving his patrol car and fatally struck a bicyclist ten years ago.

In 2014, Atherton started allowing officers and dispatchers to stay in the three-bedroom home as more officers began commuting longer distances. But with the city taking back the home, some officers are scrambling to find alternatives.

During a city council session last week, a sergeant who has a three-hour commute spoke about the need for department employees to have decent sleeping quarters.

“So I’m scrambling a little bit to figure out what I’m going to do,” the sergeant said. “I’m thinking of buying a camper to put on the back of my pickup truck.”

Some officers have left the department as a result of the long commutes, according to KRON4. The department is also having trouble recruiting officers because of the high cost of living.

Atherton is planning to open a new civic center and police headquarters, which will have two dedicated sleep rooms. But the project won’t be complete for years.

Until construction is complete, the city is considering renting apartments and using RVs like San Jose officers currently do.

“Being able to attract people to come out here to work on the peninsula, knowing that housing isn’t affordable, I think that finding some way to provide relief from that, at least when you’re here at work, is good for everybody,” Wade said.