MPD residency rule relaxed after council reversal - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Jason Miles

MPD residency rule relaxed after council reversal

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It's been two months since a Memphis City Council plan to relax police residency rules went down in flames along racial lines.  Changing her mind was not easy for councilwoman Janis Fullilove.

"You know, I've been talked about like I'm the scum of the Earth," said Fullilove during a marathon meeting Tuesday night.  "And now, I'm going to be talked about like I'm the crust on the scum of the Earth," she added.

She and councilman Harold Collins decided to jump ship.

"I think it would be detrimental to all of us if we did not do anything," said Collins.

Both sat on a special council committee formed after the divisive vote in November.  It was charged with identifying viable solutions to the police recruitment problem.

"And to not allow our citizens to be in a state of fear going forward in this city," said Collins.

The new vote means new recruits can now live up to 20 miles outside of Shelby County.  But they're required to pay a $1400 per year penalty.  The new relaxed rules expire December 31st.

"With the expanding of the 20 mile, you're putting another tool in the toolbox," MPD Director Larry Godwin told the council.

But it flies in the face, some say, of a majority of voters who wanted only Memphis residents to wear a badge.   

"I just don't see the logic in offering a vote to the public when you have the authority to overrule the public anytime you feel like it," said councilwoman Wanda Halbert.

"When I grew up, where I grew up in public housing, we called it bait and switch," said councilman Joe Brown.  "That's the bottom line," he added.

It's a sure bet this issue will be back before the council again.  

In fact, the council will consider other possible solutions next week.  They include a faster application process.  Meantime, some are threatening a lawsuit to try and keep new residency rules from taking effect.

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