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Thursday, May 23, 2019

St. Louis County Councilman Seeks to Force County Employees to Move Out of City

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2019 at 12:06 PM

click to enlarge St. Louis County employees would be banned from living in the city under proposal. - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • St. Louis County employees would be banned from living in the city under proposal.

In the long tradition of political trolling, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch is suggesting new rules that would ban any county employees from living in the city.

"I'm usually against forced residency for public employees," he tweeted on Wednesday, including an image of his formal request letter. "However, STL city forces county residents working for the city to move there. St. Louis County should do the same."

He added the hashtag #GoesBothWaysRight?

The city has been grappling for years with residency requirements for public employees, especially cops. The rules currently require officers with fewer than seven years on the job to live here, but Mayor Lyda Krewson has advocated changing that. At her request, the city promised last year to offer waivers of the residency requirement for up to 50 new hires as a way to boost recruiting.

But it's not just new hires that want those waivers. The Post-Dispatch had a story yesterday about an officer who quit the city's force, but then applied for one of those waivers to come back to work without living in the city. His reasons include the option for better schools for his kids who have special needs.

Making it easier for veteran white cops to leave for the suburbs is not typically the argument made by those who would drop residency requirements, but other cities have seen an outflow of officers after changing their rules. Five years after Wisconsin outlawed residence requirements for public employees, a third of Milwaukee's cops were living outside the city.

Police unions across the country have long fought the requirements, arguing that they infringe on their members' rights and hurt recruiting. But supporters of the requirements work off the idea that public employees will be more invested in the communities they serve if they have to actually live in them.

Suburban cops driving in to police neighborhoods that are often poorer and populated with more minorities than their own hometowns was an issue that got a national airing after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson by Officer Darren Wilson.

Fitch, who is the county's former police chief, told KSDK he hopes to "force a conversation" by proposing the new county residency rules. He added that he planned to suggest St. Charles and Jefferson counties write their own requirements as well.

"If the city will not relax their legislation I would hope those two counties would join us and do the same thing there," he told the station.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

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