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Bill to ban police residency requirement heads to Gov. Lee's desk

House and Senate lawmakers had gone back and forth about whether the ban should apply statewide or only in Memphis.
Credit: WBIR

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee's GOP-controlled General Assembly has advanced legislation banning local officials from requiring police officers to live in the county they patrol.

House and Senate lawmakers had gone back and forth whether the ban should apply statewide or only in Memphis, where the police chief has argued the region's residency requirement has hindered recruitment efforts and staffing shortages. On Monday, the House agreed to the Senate's statewide application. It now goes to Republican Gov. Bill Lee's desk for his signature.

Critics of the bill argue that if first responders can live outside the county, they could take their paychecks back to other communities.

However, supporters counter that officer shortages have contributed to an increase in crime rates, with Memphis — nestled in the state's most populous county — ending 2021 with a record 346 homicides.

Earlier this year, Lee proposed funding 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol officers for Shelby County to help fight crime in the Memphis area. He has also proposed a new $150 million fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in programming and resources, and expansion of funding for basic training,

Nationwide, questions have long swirled around whether residency requirements improve relationships between police and communities, though they’ve been in place for decades. Researchers point to the lack of studies backing their effectiveness, while police reform advocates argue there are more meaningful actions departments could take, such as banning chokeholds or increasing accountability, to boost trust.

This story was originally reported by The Associated Press and WATN.

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