State Representative Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, is proposing to let St. Louis police officers live outside the city limits. House Bill 1604 would let the officers reside within a one-hour response time.
The police department has about 150 to 200 police officer job openings and Police Chief John Hayden says the residency requirement is the greatest challenge the department has with recruitment and retention.
To top it all off, St. Louis has been named the most dangerous city in America for several years. Last year, the city had 194 murders, 2,600 shootings and 349 carjackings. Hicks has described St. Louis as the murder capital of the nation.
Gov. Mike Parson says he supports putting an end to the residency requirement.
“St. Louis has got a real problem,” he says. “The last thing we need to do is be hindering them from hiring police officers for that. I’m open to that. I think it’s the right thing to do – to make sure we get those full numbers of the police force up. They’re like 150, 200 officers down. The reality of it is whether you’re in St. Louis you’re in Polk County where I’m from just hiring deputies back in the day, the reality is if you can’t hire them within the county, you’ve got to reach outside there.”
A House committee is considering Hicks’ bill. The legislation is a top priority for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, a Democrat, Hayden, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican with ties to the St. Louis suburb of Glendale.
Some members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and some residents want the requirement to stay intact – sparking Krewson and Hayden to ask Hicks for help in resolving the issue. The critics say having police officers who live in and know the neighborhoods they patrol is important. The one resident who testified against the bill at a House hearing said the matter should go to a citywide vote in St. Louis.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, has proposed Senate Bill 558, a similar measure.
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