St. Louis and Louisville split on importance of police residency

St. Louis officers will get to live outside the city

Michael Calhoun
September 24, 2020 - 11:34 am
Louisville, KY police

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- St. Louis and Louisville have differing approaches to police reform.

In St. Louis, officials are pushing to remove the residency requirement, hoping that allowing officers to live outside the city will get more of them on the payroll. In Louisville, it's the opposite.

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Monday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill exempting St. Louis first responders from the requirement for three years. A measure to permanently get rid of the rule will appear before city voters this November.

"The downfall for the city, I think, is quite considerable," University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld said of the St. Louis approach. "Like everything else that's important in life, there are trade-offs here."

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He doesn't believe removing the residency requirement will result in "all that much" of an increase in applications to join the force. Only a pay increase would really move the needle, he says.

Meanwhile, Louisville is offering housing credits to officers to encourage them to live in Louisville proper. It's part of the civil settlement with Breonna Taylor's family. Rosenfeld says that's an appealing idea.

"I don't think it's specific to Louisville. I would like to see the city of St. Louis offer housing credits -- quite substantial ones -- to police officers to live in the city," he said. "By offering those incentives, that could offset some of the (population) downfall that might come from removing the residency requirement."

He says it's still an unanswered question whether police officers are less likely to use unwarranted force if they live in the communities in which they patrol.

KMOX asked Rosenfeld if St. Louis' approach is off-base: "It's hard to tell how much regret there will be in a few years." he said.

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