Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Courting Cops

City Council is going to be interesting tonight.

In a some times heated executive session earlier this afternoon, the council discussed the recommendations that the police hiring task force presented a few weeks ago. One, based upon evidence that a previous group of applicants would not have applied if they had to live within the city limits, centered around the police department's residency requirement.

"There were a couple of issues that this council had discussed," said Council member Wanda Halbert. "One of them was the residency requirement. The media has inappropriately and incorrectly said that this group said to only relax the residency requirement."

The full council is expected to vote tonight on a resolution to allow police officers to live within 20 miles of the Shelby County line.

Longtime member Barbara Swearengen Ware has been against the measure from the beginning. She, along with Halbert, have implied the police department is turning candidates away unnecessarily.

"We don't have a lack of folk applying. We have folk who are being disqualified systematically," Ware said. "That's something we should be concerned about."

After Council Chair Myron Lowery said they had all been contacted by constituents about applicants being unfairly disqualified, Councilmember Bill Boyd said that he represented a wide area of the city and had not received "one piece of mail, one e-mail, one telephone call about anything being unfair" with MPD, and that when the chair said they all had, "we all haven't."

Halbert returned that she had a number of families contact her.

"Their boys have been wrongfully arrested; the tickets have been dismissed; and then that's used against them in police hiring," she said.

The executive session also included discussions of the fairgrounds redevelopment plan and the city's foreclosure crisis plan.

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