State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Paul Rose (R-Covington), and Representatives Mark White (R-Memphis), and John Gillespie (R-Memphis) announced today that passage of a bill allowing first responders to live where they choose will be one of their top priorities in the 2022 legislative session. The legislation would ban residency requirements statewide for police officers and firefighters.
Sen. Kelsey says the bill is a matter of public safety and will allow police and fire departments to recruit top tier first responder candidates, regardless of where they live, to address a serious deficit of police officers. “Passage of this legislation will help us fight our rising crime rates by enabling us to hire more police officers.” said Kelsey.
“This requirement needs to be removed immediately because it is an obstacle in recruiting and retaining first responders in an already tough labor market.”
“Limiting a workforce by limiting the labor pool has never been a good answer,” said House Majority Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) who is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives. “This legislation will open the labor pool and you will see crime drop”
In 2021, the city of Memphis recorded a record-breaking 346 homicides. At least 31 of these victims were under 18, with homicide claiming more lives of children in Shelby County than the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senators Kelsey and Rose won approval of the bill last March in the Tennessee Senate. The legislation, however, was deferred until 2022 in the House of Representatives. The 2022 legislative session begins next Tuesday.
“This is common-sense legislation,” said Senator Rose. “Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel across our state are on the front lines protecting us every day. They need the support of all citizens and legislators, and when this legislation is passed, the leadership of these departments will be enabled to hire the staff they desperately need to keep our citizens safe.”
Last year, the Memphis City Council adopted a resolution acknowledging that the city is over 400 officers short of its hiring goal.
“Reducing violent crime, public safety and safe streets are the number one priority of the residents of Memphis,” said House co-sponsor Representative White. “Studies have shown that the Memphis Police Department is understaffed by several hundred officers and that as the number of officers in the police force increases, the levels of violent crime in Memphis decrease. This bill will aid efforts to make our streets safer.”
“I think it is a mistake to limit ourselves when it comes to recruiting good men and women to serve and protect our communities,” said House co-sponsor Representative Gillespie. “We should be thinking regionally; this legislation will help to expand our pool of highly-qualified applicants, resulting in more boots on the ground serving constituents.
The Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTA), which provides assistance and training to municipal officials and employees as part of the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service, says that most cities in Tennessee have moved away from residency requirements due to difficulties in recruiting. In addition to increasing public safety, this measure will also save taxpayer dollars in approximately $25 million per year on overtime pay for officers.