Amid Shortage, Bill Filed to Allow Tennessee Police and Firefighters to Live Outside of Area of Employment



Tennessee first responders would no longer have to live in the city in which they work, if bill SB-29 passes. Presented by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), this bill would allow Tennessee to recruit talent from a much larger pool. Tennessee has already faced a police officer deficit, and Kelsey hopes that this will give a much-needed reprieve.

“This is a public safety bill. It will enable us to hire more police officers, which will help us fight our rising crime rates," said Kelsey. "This bill will support our police and fire officers who keep us safe by allowing them to live where they choose."


In Memphis, major violent crime rates are up 9 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. In December, the Memphis City Council adopted a resolution acknowledging that the city is over 400 officers short of its hiring goal. “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 Representative 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.”

The measure has received broad support from legislators and community leaders throughout Shelby County.

“I strongly lend my support to this common-sense legislation,” said Senator Paul Rose (R-Covington). “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 I believe when this legislation is passed, the leadership of these departments will be enabled to hire the staff they desperately need.”

Lawmakers also hope that they will see a significant decrease in violent crime across the city.


“Reducing violent crime, public safety and safe streets are the No. 1 priority of the residents of Memphis,” said Representative Mark White (R-Memphis). “This legislation enables Memphis to have a fully staffed law enforcement agency to give us those safer streets.”

“Now more than ever, Memphis is in need of police officers to protect our community,” said Representative Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington). This piece of legislation will give more qualified men and women the opportunity to serve their neighbors and keep Memphis safe.”

In addition to increasing public safety, this measure will also save taxpayer dollars. Last fiscal year, the City of Memphis spent over $25 million on overtime pay for officers.

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