Members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday voted to advance Senate Bill 29 which would allow first responders to live where they choose.
The measure, sponsored by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), would ban residency requirements statewide for police officers and firefighters.
Senator Kelsey said 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. In particular, it will help Tennessee address a deficit of police officers occurring throughout the country.
"This bill will support our police, fire officers, and emergency medical service workers who keep us safe by allowing them to live where they choose. It will increase public safety by enabling us to hire more police officers, which will help us fight our rising crime rates.”
Rep. Jerome Moon (R-Maryville), who is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives, said, “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. Removing residency requirements will greatly expand the pool of highly-qualified applicants.”
Senator Kelsey said, "In Memphis, major violent crime rates are up nine percent, and the city suffered from a record of over 300 homicides in 2020. In addition, a recent analysis by Drs. Richard Janikowski and Phyllis Betts of Strategic City Solutions revealed 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. In December, the City Council adopted a resolution acknowledging that the city is over 400 officers short of its hiring goal.
"The new bill would seek to remedy the lack of law enforcement officers by applying the practices adopted by many local police departments statewide. 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."