First responders react to Tennessee bill lifting residency requirements

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Nationwide, a shortage of police officers has been reported in recent years. A new bill out of Nashville hopes to help alleviate that problem, by allowing first responders to live wherever they want, no matter where they work.

Senate Bill 29 would ban residency requirements statewide for police officers and firefighters.

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State Senator Bill Kelsey, who sponsors the bill, says that it would allow police and fire departments to recruit candidates regardless of where they live.

Jack Thompson, president of the Chattanooga Firefighters Association, is a supporter of the legislation.

He says that depending on the county, some departments are limited by residency requirements.

“We have fire departments all over the state that are bound by different residency requirements. Some have no residency requirements where you can live anywhere you want to, being any state you want to or anywhere you would like to live, and some are really constrained,” explains Thompson.

He also says that the legislation would allow room for more job applicants.

“For us we’ve got this with recruiting efforts, being able to increase our applicant pool size and also to give us a better opportunity to be able to find the right person to be able to come work for Chattanooga fire department, Chattanooga police department – it’s for all first responders. So fire, police, and EMS – anybody that is a first responder, this bill would cover,” he says.

Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett says that his department is one that is not constrained by residency requirements, and that several of his officers reside outside county lines.

“I’ve hired a couple that – I think I have two that live outside the county but the rest of them live here in the county and lived here for many years, so I haven’t had a big problem with that,” says Burnett.

However, he says that the legislation has his support.

“We’re seeing a decrease in the amount of people that are wanting to become police officers and it’s probably a good bill. So I’m supporting it, that would help everybody, I’m supporting it and will be supportive of it.”