Residency rule expected to be lifted for St. Louis police, others with governor's signature

By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) - The rule that requires police officers, firefighters and EMTs that work in the city to also live in the city is one step closer to being temporarily lifted. 

The Missouri Senate overwhelmingly passed the proposal Wednesday morning and it now goes to Gov. Mike Parson's desk where he's expected to sign it. Removing the residency rule has been part of his plan to curb violence in the city. 

The vote was 25-5. 

The bill will remove the residency rule through 2023 and would allow officers to live within a one-hour response time of St. Louis, which is 48% white and 45% Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2019.

Counties tend to get whiter farther out from St. Louis. About 68% of St. Louis County is white and 25% is Black. St. Charles County is almost 90% white.

There are still disparities among St. Louis police compared to the city’s population under the current residency rule. Roughly 67% of St. Louis police are white, according to data provided by the agency. Another 30% are Black.

The St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners enacted the residency requirement in 1973. The rule is still in place and requires police to live in the city for at least seven years before moving.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says the bill "is a positive step toward leveling the playing field and allowing us to be more competitive in hiring, retaining, and recruiting public safety employees from a larger geographic area."

Washington University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Equity Associate Director Geoff Ward said in an email that residency rules were aimed at bringing the racial makeup of police forces more in line with the surrounding community.

The hope was that doing so would help put a stop to “the experience and perception of racially hostile ‘occupying armies’ of white officers in black neighborhoods,” he said.

“I do not know that residency requirements ever achieved those ends,” Ward said. “But I don’t see any signs that this government is motivated by these kinds of questions – by issues of police legitimacy and community trust and cooperation.”

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