Police residency vote: lawsuit may be filed next week - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Jason Miles and Andrew Douglas

Police residency vote: lawsuit may be filed next week

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - Sources say a lawsuit to reverse the city council's decision to relax police residency requirements will likely be filed as early as Monday.

The goal is to uphold a 2004 referendum that requires city employees to live within the city limits.

Reverend Jennings Bernard of the Memphis Black Community Association warned of repercussions if the council overruled the referendum, which was passed by the majority of Memphis voters.

"They are the ones who put you into office. They're the ones who said they want a residency requirement," Bernard said to the council.

Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery said on Tuesday that he wasn't expecting litigation. "If members of the public were truly concerned to file a lawsuit, that would have been done two years ago, and no one did."

The police residency issue polarized the city and the Memphis City Council along racial lines last year. At Tuesday night's meeting, council members voted to relax tho rules regarding where officers are allowed to live. While some council members applauded the compromise, others were steaming mad.

The city council's ad hoc committee, formed after last year's vote on police residency rules, changed the minds of two council members: Janis Fullilove and Harold Collins.

"We're working together," said Fullilove. "We want to do what's best. We want our city to be safe."

Collins says he shares that sentiment. "We have to work together and demonstrate to this community that this council can come forward with real lively, creative solutions."

Both council members crossed racial lines to relax police residency in an effort to get more police recruits, but there's a catch. New recruits who live up to 20 miles outside Shelby County will pay a $1400 annual penalty, and the new relaxed rules will expire on December 31, 2008.

"The council has acted," said council chairman Myron Lowery. "We need to accept that action, and then move forward."

The ad hoc committee put together a list of other short term and long term initiatives for new recruits, including student loan repayment plans, repayment of relocation expenses and help with a down payment on a home. The community can expect to hear more about those initiatives later this year.

Stay with Action News 5 and WMCTV.com for developments.

Click here to e-mail Jason Miles.

Click here to e-mail Andrew Douglas. 

Powered by Frankly