JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri lawmakers serving on the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding a bill aimed at helping the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department hire more officers.
St. Louis leaders say a residency rule has hampered the city’s ability to not only recruit police officers but to fill other city jobs as well.
“Only a few months ago the City of St. Louis was short almost 1,000 employees across our ranks,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson. “So, I am also in favor of lifting the residency requirement for all city employees.”
State Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Dardenne Prairie) has proposed legislation that would lift the residency requirement. The proposal would require officers to live within an hour’s drive of St. Louis.
Committee Chairman David Gregory (R-St. Louis County) said he wanted to hold a hearing as soon as possible to address concerns about crime and the challenge of hiring officers.
“Police officers want the right to choose what neighborhood their kids grow up in,” he said.
Some committee members raised questions about the legislation including why the state should get involved in a local issue and whether lifting the ban would result in some neighborhoods losing police officers as neighbors.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden testified in favor of lifting the residency requirement.
“Our department has been operating anywhere from 100 to 150 officers below our authorized strength of 1,340 officers for at least the past three years, and as of yesterday, we were 138 officers short,” he said.
Gregory’s office said 14 people testified in favor of the legislation and one person was in opposition to the measure.