Crime Commission supports changing residency requirements for first responders

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The fight to change residency requirements for first responders continues as the Crime Commission shared its support.

In January, FOX13 reported Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) filed a bill that would ban residency requirements statewide for police officers and firefighters.

RELATED: Proposed bill would allow Tennessee first responders to live where they choose

The Crime Commission Board voted 24-3 to support the pending legislation.

“During our discussion, it was obvious that many Board members were sensitive to the issue of state government preempting local decision-making. However, most Board members see enactment of the legislation as a necessary step to address the severe shortage of local law enforcement officers,” said Ben Adams, Board chair.

Last year, the Shelby County Commission voted to ease residency requirements for first responders.

Thanks to the vote, Shelby County first responders, firefighters, and correctional officers don’t have to live in Shelby County, but they make $2,500 less per year compared to their colleagues who live in the county.

RELATED: Shelby Co. Commission votes to ease residency requirements for first responders

The case is different for first responders who work for the city of Memphis.

All Memphis police officers must live within the county.

Back in 2019, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings asked city council to lift the residency requirements as long as they can report to work within two hours.

The issue of residency requirements was initially on the 2020 ballot although, it was later removed.

“At the end of 2020, the MPD was down to 2,038 officers. The Memphis City Council has set a goal of 2500 officers. Simply put, we will never reach that goal without expanding the pool of qualified applicants,” said Adams.

Among the Shelby County legislative caucus, not everyone supports the measure introduced by Kelsey and Republican St. Rep. Mark White of Memphis.

“I am an absolute no on this bill,” said Memphis Democrat St. Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a retired Shelby County Firefighter.

Parkinson argued the crime commission wants the state to get involved because the Memphis City Council voted against putting the residency requirement on a referendum, despite pleas from police and fire unions and Mayor Strickland.

Parkinson believed local control on this issue should be honored because “it literally mutes my voice in regards to the person I voted for to represent me on the city council.”

To increase the pool of quailed applicants, Parkinson told FOX13, “do something drastic and bold by creating incentives that will make those officers come and work in the City of Memphis.”

Adams said he doesn’t know how much influence their endorsement will have in Nashville although it is expected to have some weight because they made the announcement public.

MORE:

New poll shows majority of people living in Memphis want more police officers on the streets

City Council looking for ways to put more police officers on the streets

Mixed community reaction following Memphis city council’s decision to remove the public safety residency referendum from ballot

Rallings asks council to let voters decide MPD residency requirements