MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Divided reaction following Memphis city council’s decision to remove the public safety residency referendum from the November ballot.
This referendum would have allowed voters to decide whether police officers could live up to 50 miles outside the city or not.
This debate has been heavily debated by two different city councils. Last year, the previous council approved adding the referendum to the ballot but this new council vote to scrape this option Tuesday night.
“I find it very interesting that the same young council people who are fighting and saying the citizens voices need to be heard are the very same individuals that are now suppressing the ability of the citizens to actually decide,” said Michael Williams, Memphis Police Association President.
The Memphis Police Association isn’t the only one unhappy with this decision.
Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted a statement shortly after the vote. His tweet said in part, “The voters of Memphis were told their voices do not matter.”
“I believe my vote absolutely matters,” said Collective Blueprint CEO Sarah Lockridge-Steckel.
The same day as the council vote, Lockridge-Steckel wrote an op-ed about the need for more social services and fewer police officers to reduce crimes. She said she supports the council’s decision.
“You know we have to trust their judgment, and trust, they have a deep understanding of these issues, of policing and they have been evaluated this issue extensively and I believe we elected them for a reason and we have to allow them to do their jobs,” said Lockridge-Steckel.
As residents, Lockridge-Steckel said they should want police officers who live in the same city they patrol.
“We have to be real about that you know when you are in a community and you live in a community, you live in the city you have a vested interest in that community so I do believe it’s a critical issue,” she said.
But Williams said he residency requirement wasn’t just another incentive for recruitment effort, he said it would have impacted officer safety too.
“We’ve had one officer’s residence that has been shot up so these officers definitely want to put themselves in a place of safety and their families in a place of safety,” said Williams.
In a statement from Police Director Mike Rallings, he said he’s disappointed in the council’s vote.
He said, “I am yet still committed to hiring qualified and compassionate people who choose to serve our community.”
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