Weekly Column for Nov. 25, 2019
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, I stood with the attorney general, the mayor of St. Louis and the St. Louis metropolitan chief of police to announce legislation I will introduce to remove residency requirements for St. Louis police officers. The residency rule, which requires officers to live in the city of St. Louis as a condition of employment, severely limits the pool of qualified applicants and has left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) short over 120 officers.
When the public sees fewer police officers and must endure longer and longer 911 response times, their confidence in the police is eroded and they feel less safe in their community. And when people don’t feel safe, it becomes difficult to attract and retain jobs and residents. These sentiments were echoed by law enforcement and community leaders:
“We have the greatest need for officers in the most demanding criminal environment in the St. Louis metropolitan area, yet we have the greatest impediment to becoming an officer by inconveniencing and discouraging applicants with the residency requirement,” said Col. John Hayden, St. Louis Metropolitan Chief of Police.
“More officers means more brave, dedicated individuals patrolling St. Louis streets and keeping residents safe. Removing these residency requirements opens the SLMPD up to a larger and more diverse pool of applicants who don’t necessarily live in the City of St. Louis,” said Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
“Removing the residency requirement will not fix the shortage of police officers in the city immediately, however, removing one of the barriers to recruitment will certainly help. The City of St. Louis is a wonderful place to live, but it doesn’t work for all families, and officers should be able to choose where they live,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
I have always supported our brave men and women in law enforcement. I worked closely with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the Municipal Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers Association on many bills when I chaired the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, and I am glad to work with the FOP and the St. Louis Police Officers Association to end overly-restrictive residency requirements.
Most cities across America and nearly every city in Missouri only require their first responders to live near the jurisdiction they work in. Geographically, St. Louis City is a fairly small area, and I think it is past time that we allow municipal police officers to live where they and their families want to live.
I believe this decision is a no-brainer. Our St. Louis City police officers are calling for back up, so to speak, and have been met with silence. Who will answer the call? It’s time to give law enforcement the resources they need—and that starts with access to the best and the brightest applicants.
It is an honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. Please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at email@example.com if you have any questions.