Legislation eliminating the residency requirement for St. Louis police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel is heading to the Missouri Senate floor in Jefferson City after being approved Tuesday in committee.
The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee approved the bill by a party-line 5-2 vote. State Sens. Karla May, D-St. Louis, and Brian Williams, D-University City, cast the two no votes.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden traveled to Jefferson City on Tuesday to testify for the bill, saying “we (St. Louis Police) desperately need more officers and we need them now.” During his testimony, Hayden discussed recent violence against his officers.
“That’s seven officers shot, one officer shot and killed in the line of duty and one retired captain shot and killed in the past three months,” Hayden testifies.
St. Louis Police officer Tamarris Bohannon was shot and killed in the line of duty this weekend. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has charged suspect Thomas Kinworthy, 43, with first degree murder and numerous other felonies.
Chief Hayden says his department is currently down 145 officers and that the residency requirement is the greatest challenge his department has with recruitment and retention. Hayden testifies that there has been an unprecedented surge in gun violence in St. Louis in the past 12 weeks, with the city averaging more than nine homicides per week.
“Bringing us up to 183 homicides compared to 137 at the same time last year. 32 homicides in June, 53 in July and now 29 in August,” says Hayden.
The Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the St. Louis Police Officers Association testified for the legislation on Tuesday.
State Public Advocate Arnie Dienoff testified against it, saying the only elected official in St. Louis who supports the bill is Mayor Lyda Krewson. He also says the bill only applies to St. Louis and not Kansas City, Springfield or Columbia.
Dienoff notes the bill sponsor, State Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, is not from St. Louis City.
State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, and other bill opponents have also said that St. Louis residents feel safer with officers living in their neighborhoods.
Chief Hayden testifies that no other department in the St. Louis region has a residency rule, and says citizens want more visibility and more enforcement.
The Missouri State Council of Firefighters also testified for Hicks’ bill on Tuesday, saying St. Louis is now down 32 EMS staffers.
Missouri Senate committees approved four other crime bills on Tuesday, including witness protection legislation from State Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, that would create a fund to provide security to witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families in criminal proceedings or investigations.
All five bills are part of Governor Mike Parson’s special session call on violent crime.
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