Missouri lawmakers discuss expanding police residency rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lawmakers are considering whether to allow police in all Missouri municipalities to reside outside the cities where they live.

A House bill initially introduced to lift the residency requirements for officers in St. Louis was expanded Tuesday to include all Missouri cities, despite opposition from Kansas City leaders, The Kansas City Star reported.

Many cities currently require all law enforcement officers to live within city limits. St. Louis supports lifting the residency requirements, in part because the police department is 100 officers short.

In Kansas City, officers must live in the city one year before beginning employment, and civilian workers have nine months to move into the city.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt supports lifting residency requirements, contending it would help recruit and retain officers and help fight violent crime. The mayor and police chief of St. Louis also support the bill, after local efforts to change the requirements were defeated by the city’s aldermen.

Kansas City leaders testified last week they opposed lifting residency requirements. Lobbyist Nancy Giddens testified that Kansas City is 319 square miles, has diverse neighborhoods and 14 school districts within city limits. The city of St. Louis encompasses 62 square miles. Kansas City also has fewer recruitment and turnover problems than St. Louis, she said.

State Rep. Nick Schroer, a St. Louis-area Republican who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the amendment to expand the bill. He said if removing the police residency requirements helped St. Louis, the principle should apply statewide. Police officers would still have to live within an hour’s response time.

He said the Fraternal Order of Police and police officers support the change.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ron Hicks,supports a statewide prohibition on residency requirements but said he left Kansas City out of the bill because Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas opposed it.

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