Top cop talks residency rules night before big vote

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Dozens of break-ins in as many weeks have High Point Terrace and adjoining neighborhoods on high alert. Many applauded an effort to get more officers on the streets during a community meeting Monday night.  They don't care if they live up to 20 miles from the Shelby County line.

"As long as they're protecting our neighborhoods, it's fine with me," one neighbor said.

"If you expand the geographics, there's always a chance you'll get a few more bodies," Police Director Larry Godwin said, who was also on hand.

However, Godwin was not willing to wager the night before the city council votes on relaxing residency requirements.

"I play the hand dealt me," Godwin said. "They tell me the rules and that's what we're gonna do."

Right now, there are 2,157 Memphis Police officers.  That's nearly 200 below what's budgeted.  Some would like to see about 300 more officers on staff ASAP.

"I'm not interested in hiring anyone before we give our own residents an opportunity," Memphis councilwoman Wanda Halbert said.

She's planning to vote "no."

"I know our unemployment rate is 8.3%, and a number of people are trying to get those jobs," Halbert said.

The prospect of people drawing a city paycheck without paying property taxes is another concern.  But those affected by recent crime say it's worth the risk.  And Memphis's top cop believes it is worth a shot.

"You never know unless you try it," Director Godwin said.  "And that's kind of been my position on it."

Godwin says Memphis stands alone, among peer cities, when it comes to a residency rule.  And he absolutely refuses to lower hiring standards any further.

Stay with Action News 5 to find out how the city council votes Tuesday afternoon.

Click here to e-mail Jason Miles.