Council members to vote on police residency requirements

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Does it matter where Memphis police officers live?  Some Memphis City Council members do, causing a fight over the Memphis Police Department's residency requirement.

While Memphis is ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in America, a task force recently found it is also one of the only cities left in America that only hires police officers from within.

Memphis City Council member Reid Hedgepeth is trying once again to relax the residency rules for new police officers.

"We are not doing all we can do to protect our citizens," he said Monday.
Hedgepeth says the Memphis Police Department is understaffed by about 200 officers, and it's 500 officers short of its goal to saturate city streets with officers.

"What we're trying to do is the same model New York did, (which) is put more officers a drastic amount of officers on the street," he said.

The City Council's public safety committee was divided when it debated Hedgepeth's resolution two weeks ago.  Those opposed to the resolution said Memphis police officers should have a stake in the city by living in it.
"You can live anywhere you want to and apply to be a police officer in the city of Memphis," council member Barbara Swearengen-Ware said in the November 4th meeting. "Then you have six months to become a resident of Memphis.  I think it's fair to the police officers, I think it's fair to the citizens."

In June, council member Harold Collins proposed a resolution to charge new officers who live outside Memphis a $1,200 annual fee.  He said the fee would be the equivalent of the average property tax rate in Memphis.

That resolution was never voted on.

The Memphis City Council is set to take on the matter of residency requirements again Tuesday.  The Council is set to vote on a resolution that would allow new police officers to live within 20 miles of the Shelby County line.

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