Bill to ban residency requirements for Memphis first responders signed

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE Mar. 24, 12:50 P.M.:

Governor Bill Lee has signed State Senator Brian Kelsey’s bill to allow first responders across the state to live where they choose.

ORIGINAL STORY Mar. 14, 7:40 P.M.:

The Tennessee House of Representatives has agreed to an amended version of Senate Bill 29, a version that the Tennessee Senate proposed which would lift residency requirements for first responders in Memphis and Shelby County.

The bill, now on its way to Governor Bill Lee’s desk, would allow police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services workers in Shelby County to live outside of Shelby County. Currently, those first responders must live inside the county limits.

SEE MORE: Tennessee lawmakers reject bill banning residency requirements for Memphis first responders

If signed into law by Lee, State Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown believes that the ban on residency requirements could immediately have a positive impact on the Memphis Police Department.

“With this law, I believe Memphis could quickly hire a hundred new police officers,” Kelsey said in a press release, noting that MPD is over 500 officers short of the staffing goal set by the Memphis City Council.

Those feelings were echoed by Bill Gibbons, president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, who said in a press release that the lifting of residency requirements would also impact the safety of Shelby County for years to come.

“Loosening the residency requirement for local law enforcement and other first responders is a key part of the new five-year Safe Community Action Plan,” Gibbons said in the press release. “The severe shortage of police officers must receive priority. The General Assembly’s action will provide an important tool in recruitment and retention of officers.”

The bill also has had support from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis.