Memphis Might Allow People from Outside Shelby County to Serve as Police Officers or Firefighters

 

Memphis voters might get called upon next year to decide whether people who live up to 50 miles away from Shelby County can serve as police officers or firefighters.

This will only happen if seven out of 13 Memphis City Council members decide next month to approve a referendum for the November 2020 elections.

Councilmember J Ford Canale, who proposed the idea, said Memphis currently has about 2,100 police officers, but city officials want 2,300 by 2021.

“We need everything at our disposal to be able to hire good men and women in uniform,” Canale told The Tennessee Star Tuesday.

“At the end of the day if someone is responding to an emergency call for you, whether police or fire, does it really matter to you where they live if they’re about to save your life?”

But Council member Martavius Jones said he’s against the proposal.

“I don’t think it will go anywhere in addressing the police shortage. If you look throughout the country you have a number of police departments that have no residency restrictions, and they are still facing the same shortage,” Jones said.

“So, if the contention is if we allow those who live outside of Shelby County to be a part of the Memphis Police Department then it will help us address our police shortage. If you look at other departments that hasn’t been the case, whereas those that do not have residency requirements are facing the same shortage we are facing.”

The Star asked Jones to provide examples of other cities where he says this has happened.

Jones did not provide any examples.

Canale said Memphis is the only large city in Tennessee that requires city police officers live within the county.

“By us passing this ordinance all we are doing is allowing it to be on the ballot in November 2020. If the voters of Memphis say no then it won’t happen,” Canale said.

“This just gives us a chance to let the voters speak. I don’t think we should do anything to restrain the voters’ voice. Give them the option. If everyone on the council thinks Memphians are against this then we will see in November 2020.”

Council members will likely decide whether to send the matter to referendum on Dec. 17, Canale said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Memphis City Council” by Memphis City Council.

 

 

 

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4 Thoughts to “Memphis Might Allow People from Outside Shelby County to Serve as Police Officers or Firefighters”

  1. […] As reported, Memphis voters might get called upon next year to decide whether people who live up to 50 miles away from Shelby County can serve as police officers or firefighters. […]

  2. […] As reported, Memphis voters might get called upon next year to decide whether people who live up to 50 miles away from Shelby County can serve as police officers or firefighters. […]

  3. William R. Delzell

    Sounds suspicious to me. It reminds me of a seventy-year plus practice by New York City of allowing its police to live outside the city limits instead of requiring them to live in their assigned beat. New York City’s practice during and after 1945 of allowing its police to live in affluent white-only suburbs in Long Island or even out of state in nearby New Jersey instead of in the multi-racial or multi-ethnic neighborhoods of their beats was a major contributing factor to the race riots that would plague New York City during the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

    When police do not get to know the law-abiding neighbors they are assigned to patrol, it can cause distrust toward the police, especially by low-income and non-white people who fear that the police assigned to their neighborhoods are not there to protect them from violent criminals or to get their children safely across the street for school or safely to the hospital if hurt but simply to falsely implicate them in crimes or to “shake” people down for protection money.

    I would recommend the movies SERPICO with Warren Beaty and the FRENCH CONNECTION which implicated the NYPD’s close ties to major overseas drug dealers from Western Europe that preyed upon the very low income neighborhoods that the police were supposed to protect.

    If police are really serious about fighting crime in minority and low-income neighborhoods, they first need to earn and KEEP the trust of the law-abiding so that the law-abiding will free to tip off police to criminal activity to help the police make an arrest. They will not get or keep this trust by allowing major organized crime figures to prey on these neighborhoods in return for paying “protection” to the police, or by extorting money from the law-abiding.

    I fear that this proposal to allow out-of-staters and out-of-towners to serve on Memphis’s police and firefighter forces could lead to a similar situation that has plagued law enforcement in New York City.

    1. Howard

      If any emergency arises and the officers live 1 hour away what good are they going to do? are they going to break the speed limit to get to work. Why should police officers and fireman be above the law. I feel there should be a 50 mile limit on how far someone can live, not the out of state, out of county rule. I now live out of state but am a Tennessean so I am saying what I feel. I am from West Tennessee and was a TDOC Officer at WTSP.

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