Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Crime Commission Pushes to End Police Residency Requirement

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 3:00 PM

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The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission released a statement late Monday afternoon in support of a pending state legislative bill that would eliminate the residency requirement for local law enforcement and other local first responders.

SB 29/HB 105 would retroactively abolish all local residency provisions statewide. While currently there is not a statewide local residency provision, SB 29/HB 105 would prohibit local governments from establishing local residency provisions.

The commission cited rising violent crime rates and a shortage of officers as reasoning for their support of the bill. Although the Memphis City Council has set a goal of 2,500 officers for the city of Memphis, at the end of 2020, Memphis had 2,038 commissioned officers. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was also below its goal of 750 officers, with 718 officers.

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“During our discussion, it was obvious that many [Crime Commission Board of Directors] members were sensitive to the issue of state government preempting local decision-making,” said Ben Adams from the Crime Commission. “However, most board members see the enactment of the legislation as a necessary step to address the severe shortage of local law enforcement officers.”

While the number of on-duty officers has increased since the end of 2016, the overall growth of officers has been slow. 2020 also showed a regression of growth in the number of officers. The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission argues that increasing the pool of potential officer candidates would increase the number of officers in the streets. Their statement also argues that increasing the number of officers would take the strain off of the existing officers in the field.

“At the end of 2020, the MPD was down to 2,038 officers. The Memphis City Council has set a goal of 2,500 officers. Simply put, we will never reach that goal without expanding the pool of qualified applicants,” said Adams.

Citywide there is also support for hiring more officers. In a survey conducted in July of last year 78 percent of respondents were in favor of hiring more police officers with 69 percent of respondents replying that they would like to see increased local law enforcement presence in their neighborhood.

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