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Government, Politics & Issues

Parson, St. Louis Leaders Trumpet Lifting Of Public Safety Residency Requirement

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden, Mayor Lyda Krewson and other state and local leaders watch as Gov. Mike Parson signs legislation on Oct. 8, 2020 eliminating the residency requirement for public safety employees in St. Louis, including police officers.
Rachel Lippmann
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden, Mayor Lyda Krewson and other state and local leaders watch Thursday as Gov. Mike Parson signs legislation eliminating the residency requirement for public safety employees in St. Louis, including police officers.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says new legislation lifting the residency requirement for St. Louis’ public safety workers will keep the city safer.

The bill was one of two the Legislature approved during a special session on violent crime. It officially took effect Sept. 21, but Parson came to St. Louis on Thursday for a ceremonial signing.

“I understood this issue before they really talked about this issue,” Parson said of Mayor Lyda Krewson, Police Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards. “Being a sheriff back home, I always wanted to hire people within my own county, because that was the taxpayer base. But the reality of it is, you couldn’t, ‘cause the demand kept getting greater and greater, and the employees wasn’t there to get.”

The bill says police officers, firefighters, EMS, dispatchers and others hired before Sept. 1, 2023, do not have to live in the city, as long as they live close enough for a one-hour response time. Anyone hired after that date can move after seven years.

The department has been down more than 100 officers for years, and Krewson said she heard regularly from police and union leaders that the residency requirement was a huge barrier to recruitment.

“It was not always easy for the state Legislature to understand that they needed to help us level the playing field on retention and on recruiting. Both of those things are very important for our police department,” Krewson said. “I’m so pleased to be here with all of you to publicly thank the folks who made this happen.”

Hayden said he believed that three years would be more than enough time to fill the vacancies, but he added that the department is also taking steps to make that happen.

“We’re going to add more recruiters, we’re going to add more background investigators, we’re going to do some TV advertisement, we’re going to do some radio advertisement, we’re going to streamline the process from the time that you make an application to the time you actually get in the academy,” he said.

Voters will decide Nov. 3 whether the residency requirement will be permanently lifted for all city employees.

Parson and coronavirus

The ceremonial signing was originally scheduled for Sept. 23, the day Parson announced he and his wife, Teresa, had tested positive for COVID-19. The governor told reporters Thursday that he had no symptoms during isolation.

“The first lady started having minor symptoms, but really when the fever started is when we tested her, and once she tested positive, we’re always around each other all the time, so I was tested and I tested positive,” he said. “But I was very fortunate.”

Parson added that his experience with the virus has not changed his mind on issuing a statewide mask mandate.

“Since Day One, we’ve recommended people across the state to wear a mask,” he said. “I’m confident in the mayors and the council members across this state to be able to make those decisions for their people.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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