Shelby County mayor weighs in on residency requirements - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Shelby County mayor weighs in on residency requirements

Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton may be running for Memphis City Mayor in 2011, but Monday night he spoke about relaxing the Memphis Police Department's residency requirement as a citizen, Wharton said Tuesday.

"I urge you to pass this for the good of our city," Wharton told Memphis City Council members at the meeting.

Wharton voiced his support for a plan to relax residency rules for city police recruits, which would allow the department to hire officers who don't live in the City of Memphis.

The council rejected it.
"I respect their vote," Wharton said. "I obviously was speaking as a citizen, so I can't take issue from a governmental perspective."

Still, the council's vote didn't change Wharton's mind.

"Anything that adds a measure of protection, I'm going to support it, and I just felt that they should give it a chance," he said.

Action News 5 asked Wharton if he felt the meeting had racial undertones with council members voting along racial lines.

"It certainly would give that appearance, but I don't believe that was the case," he said.

Rather, Wharton said, the vote rested more on City Council members' concerns about whether or not every effort had been made to recruit within the city limits.

"Had we really done everything we could do?  There were some genuine concerns about cultural differences," he said.

Wharton added hopes police will make every effort to recruit within the city, and revisit residency rules if that doesn't work out.

"I would certainly hope they would take another look at it once they're satisfied we've exhausted all efforts locally," he said.

Council members said this may not be a dead issue.  The vote does not close until the meeting minutes are approved.  That means a council member could change his or her mind before the minutes are approved at the next meeting in two weeks.

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