MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee lawmakers talked Memphis Police Department residency requirements Monday at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in Nashville. Lawmakers discussed the possibility the state could step in to relax requirements, so Memphis can hire more police officers.
"Recruiting, it kills us," MPD Deputy Chief Terry Landrum said. "Memphis does not have the greatest reputation for crime."
Landrum appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Germantown Senator Brian Kelsey.
"The chance of us going through city council and expanding our residency program is very poor," Landrum said.
MPD requires officers to live in Shelby County, for at least six months before joining the force. Any changes to residency requirements, like out-of-county or within two hours away, would have to go before voters. It is an issue that's been hotly debated in the past decade.
"I would say we are in between kind of a critical and a dire situation in terms of our police force," said Worth Morgan, Chair of the Memphis City Council's Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
The study session Monday comes as MPD remains drastically understaffed, despite adding new recruits. The number of commissioned officers is at 1,987. That's still about 500 short of what the department needs to function normally. Right now MPD is spending thousands of dollars every month on overtime.
Senators made no firm commitments on Monday to get involved or change policy, though Senator Janice Bowling said state Senators could enable legislation to move forward, if state leaders deemed the police staffing a public safety issue.
Morgan said easing requirements would help attract better police recruits, but he acknowledged many of his other council members may not share that opinion or want state interference.
"I urge a little bit of caution from the state, as much as we do need the help, I have a little bit of a hesitancy," Morgan said, "This does seem like a local matter."