MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, filed a bill Wednesday that would create a statewide ban on residency requirements for police and firefighters.
SB 29 would allow first responders to live where they choose.
Legislators say the bill is a matter of public safety and it would allow departments to recruit top tier first responder candidates regardless of where they live, effectively addressing Tennessee’s deficit of police officers.
“This is a public safety bill, said Kelsey. “It will enable us to hire more police officers, which will help us fight our rising crime rates. This bill will support our police and fire officers who keep us safe by allowing them to live where they choose.”
Legislators cite Memphis’ rising crime rates, record homicides in 2020 and a shortage of several hundred officers in the Memphis police department.
The issue of police residency in Memphis nearly came up for a vote last year until the Memphis City Council voted to remove the referendum from the November ballot. If voted on and approved, it would’ve allowed Memphis police officers to live up to two hours outside of city limits.
“This bill addresses the needs of our local law enforcement and emergency services agencies, ensuring they have one of the most valuable resources -- sufficient personnel -- to protect our citizens and keep our communities safe,” said Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville who is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives. “Removing residency requirements will greatly expand the pool of highly-qualified applicants.”