by James Coleman —
On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council passed a resolution formally objecting to a Tennessee bill proposing a law that would allow Memphis police officers and firefighters to live outside of Shelby County.
HB 105 has the support of Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, who spoke in favor of the bill at the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville last week.
However, several Memphis City council members accused state lawmakers of interfering with the council’s prerogatives. Only four of the bill’s eight sponsors represent areas of Shelby County.
The resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Michalyn Easter-Thomas, passed 9-3-1 along party lines.
“This is not about violent crime in the state,” said Councilmember JB Smiley Jr. “It’s about folks outside Shelby County who want to tell the City of Memphis how to handle its affairs.”
Smiley, who aims to be the Democratic nominee for governor, also said that he would continue to oppose the residency policy if it becomes law.
The issue has also been a minor point of contention that has split the caucus, with some in favor of loosening the rules. The MPD is currently trying to beef up its ranks and improve morale. A lighter touch has been proposed as an incentive to stay on the job or apply.
“If this bill passes, our community will be safer,” said Councilmember Worth Morgan.
Morgan also said members relinquished responsibility when they voted 7-6 against a referendum on the matter in 2020. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, that summer was filled with waves of protests and calls for drastic changes to how police operate.
Mayor Jim Strickland vetoed the resolution, only to be overruled by the same margin.
Councilmembers Jamita Swearengen, Rhonda Logan, Patrice Robinson, Edmund Ford Sr., Cheyenne Johnson, Martavius Jones, Jeff Warren, Smiley and Easter-Thomas voted in favor of the resolution. Councilmembers J. Ford Canale, Frank Colvett and Morgan voted against it. Chase Carlisle abstained.