Residency Requirement Motion Dismissed…for Now

As reported in the Commercial Appeal, Chancery Court Judge Arnold Goldin dismissed a motion brought by local attorney Jay Bailey (Source).

The motion sought to chalenge the new residency rules passed by the Memphis City Council on January 27th. Under the rules, which do not take effect until the minutes of the prior meeting are agreed upon, presumably, at today’s Council meeting, allows the Memphis Police Department may hire officers who live up to 20 miles outside the city limits if they pay an annual fee of $1400.

Bailey, and his plaintiffs claim

“On its face it appears that the actions taken under (the residency resolution) are clearly designed to hire more white police officers,” Bailey said in court papers. “If this is the hidden purpose of the resolution and resultant actions of the defendants, it violates both the city Charter and the United States Constitution wherein racial purposes are prohibited.”

Let’s stop and think about this rationally. If your house gets robbed, do you care what race the cop is that comes to make the report? If you’re physically attacked, does the race of the cop that responds to the 911 call matter? In a city where violent crime is on a huge upswing over the past several months, this article appears two spaces ahead of the article on the failed motion, shouldn’t we be more concerned with making the city safer than the possible race of new hires?

Come on Memphis, we can’t be this trite about things. Seriously, are you really more concerned about the RACE of a potential new hire than GETTING a new hire for the MPD? It defies logic.

I’m sensitive to the concerns of the plaintiffs. Certainly, I see how individuals could believe that this is an effort to disenfranchise African-Americans seeking employment at the MPD. Unfortunately, no one has come forward with credible evidence that this is either currently happening, or has any real potential of happening. Further, easing the residency requirement doesn’t exclude any qualified Memphis based candidate for the MPD. Last I heard, the MPD was about 200 officers behind recruitment goals. Opening up the process may bring enough qualified candidates into the mix to meet that deficit.

Of course, the notion that just hiring more cops is somehow going to decrease crime is silly, but considering the state of public safety in Memphis, and the economic and budgetary crisis that all levels of government are experiencing, something has to be done immediately. As the economy goes down, crime will go up. You can look throughout modern history, in any city in America and see this trend. Memphis, which has a poverty rate of some 30%, is going to feel it worse than most places, both in economic impact, and crime.

While you’re thinking about it, go read this editorial at the CA from Sunday. It pretty well sums up what we’re facing from a staffing standpoint, and some of the objections in a pretty even-handed manner.

The big point to take out of this whole thing is; do you care what race your cops are, or is your primary concern that they are the best candidates for the job, regardless of race. I’ll take qualified over any color, be it black, white, brown red, or pasty, any day of the week.

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