City council votes to remove police residency referendum from November ballot

Residency referendum removed from November ballot

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Efforts to allow MPD officers to live up to two hours outside the city limits came to an end Tuesday night. Memphis police officers will continue to have to live in Shelby County after a long debate in the council.

“You take thousands of votes in the council, very few stand out and remember them,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. “I think this is going to be one of them.”

Strickland making his final plea to the council to allow voters to decide where police officers and firefighters can live.

Memphis Police Department applications have dropped and attrition has increased. This year alone, the city could lose up to 300 officers due to attrition.

MPD Director Mike Rallings says relaxing the residency requirement can put more officers on the street.

“What you can’t refute in what data does says and hasn’t been rushed and researched, but more police with targeted actions reduces violent crime.”

But some council members argue that the real answer to lowering crime isn’t increasing the number of officers but decreasing the city’s poverty rate, something they call a real indicator of crime.

Councilwoman Michalyn-Easter Thomas sponsored the ordinance to rescind the residency requirement being placed on the November ballot.

“I’m not afraid to make a decision that some voters may not like, but I am afraid of outside individuals coming to police my community and the community of other Black and brown and other poor people living in this city,” said Easter-Thomas. “I’m afraid of paying my tax money to someone who lives outside of this city, building up other cities.”

In the end, the vote was close. A 7-6 vote to keep law enforcement officers in the city that they patrol.

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