Mo. bill banning police residency requirements expanded to entire state

The amendment was offered as a solution to a statewide emphasis on police recruitment

Crystal Thomas
Kansas City Star

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A bill meant to lift police residency requirements for officers in the city of St. Louis was expanded by lawmakers Tuesday night to include all Missouri municipalities, despite opposition from Kansas City.

Currently, many cities require law enforcement officers to live within the cities they police. In Kansas City, sworn officers must reside in the city for one year before beginning employment, and civilian workers have nine months to move into the city.

The proposal initially covered only the city of St. Louis police department, which is more than 100 officers short.

Lifting residency requirements would help recruiting and retention, according to Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who has pushed the measure as an effort to combat violent crime. The mayor and police chief of St. Louis have voiced support as well, after local efforts to dismantle the requirements were defeated by the city’s aldermen.

The House bill was amended despite testimony last week that the city of Kansas City was opposed.

Kansas City officers have many more options to comply with a residency requirement than police in St. Louis, Kansas City lobbyist Nancy Giddens told the House Judiciary Committee. Kansas City is 319 square miles, has diverse neighborhoods and 14 school districts. Meanwhile, at 62 square miles, the city of St. Louis is much smaller.

Plus, the city has a “robust recruiting program,” she added. It did not have the same issues with recruitment and turnover that St. Louis did, echoing the testimony of Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith to a different panel of lawmakers in November.

The amendment was offered by state Rep. Nick Schroer, a St. Louis-area Republican who sits on the committee.

Schroer said if removing the “impediment” of police residency requirements was a necessity for the city of St. Louis, the principle should apply statewide. Police officers would still have to live within an hour’s response time.

“I don’t want to see an issue where down the line St. Louis is growing, we are bringing in new businesses because we have crime under control, and Kansas City -- all of sudden they have a crime plague,” Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said.

Schroer said the amendment was “what the men and women on the ground were requesting.”

“When you look at the police officers representatives and the FOP, Fraternal Order of Police, they are calling for this,” Schroer said. “The same reason they are supporting this for St. Louis, they are supporting it for Kansas City, as well.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ron Hicks, said the narrowly tailored bill has a clear path to the governor’s desk.

Though he supports a statewide prohibition on residency requirements, he specifically left Kansas City out of the bill after a conversation with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

“I spoke with people in St. Louis -- they wanted it,” Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, said. “I spoke to the local government -- they wanted it. Kansas City, I spoke to the mayor, he didn’t want it.”

The amendment passed through the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote and the bill now heads to the House floor.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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