• FOX13 Investigates: Should firefighters and police live outside the Memphis city limits?

    By: Kody Leibowitz

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis voters could once again decide if they want to hire police and firefighters who live outside city limits 

    FOX13 was inside city council today as they discussed this proposed referendum. The proposal came with mixed reactions from city council. 

    We are not talking about living just outside the city limits, if approved, they could live two hours away.

    The Strickland administration wants the ability — again — to hire new police officers and firefighters who live within two hours of the city. And it wasn’t the easy yes, they thought they’d get.

    Hiring and retaining police. That has been the goal of the Strickland administration since day one.

    Their next phase: allowing officers to reside in any city or town within two hours travel time from the city of Memphis. 

    Doug McGowen, a chief operating officer with the City of Memphis, explained to FOX13, “We can’t wait any longer to get more police officers in.”

    The Strickland administration pitched the city council on the idea of allowing voters to decide on a residency requirement referendum next fall. 

    According to Director Mike Rallings, different officers have different living requirements already — depending on when they were hired. 

    Rallings said 42% of his officers live in the city. Another 48% in the county — and 10% live outside the county. 

    “If you really want to move Memphis to the next level, then we have to get crime down. We have to have more police officers,” Rallings explained. 


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    The proposal came with mixed reactions from the city council. There wasn’t a formal vote, but we heard opinions from five council members today.

    Two said they support the referendum. Three are against the proposal at this time.

    Martavius Jones with the Memphis City Council said, “My contention is that we would have an influx or an outflux of people with high paying jobs leaving the city and further exacerbating our poverty rate.”

    Cheyenne Johnson with the Memphis City Council said, “I have reservation letting people — of that level of importance in that city — live outside of the city.”

    Gene Currie with the Memphis City Council also gave his opinion, “I’m not going to second guess personnel on the efforts that may have taken, also the fire department and police department, to get more officers in the city.”

    City council decided to hold this discussion for another two weeks. 

    If voters get the chance, this would be the third time Memphians could vote on employee residency.

    The last time was in November 2010 when voters allowed city employees to live within Shelby County.

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