JEFFERSON CITY — Representatives passed a bill Monday that takes away residency requirements for law enforcement officers and other public employees. 

Democratic legislators criticized the bill, saying citizens in St. Louis and Kansas City have pushed their elected officials to support community policing legislation. 

Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, was one of many Democrats who expressed concern with lifting the requirements. 

She cited data that show better policing from officers who live in the areas they serve.

"In order for our police departments and our officers to be really vested in the community, they must live there. They must breathe there, they must eat there," Bosley said. "They must be a vital piece of that community." 

Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, disagreed and said in a metro area like St. Charles, "you could live across the street and be in a different municipality." 

As for data, he said he has seen different numbers than Bosley. 

"The data shows that residency requirements don't work and that you can absolutely have great policing with people, especially in a metro area, who are living just down the street outside of a particular city limit," Richey said.   

Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, said he was insulted by the insinuation of the idea that if you do not live in a particular community, you care less about their safety and well-being. 

"That's an insult to a lot of individuals who put on a gun and a badge every day to go into work and serve the community," Schwadron said.

He referred to community borders as "imaginary lines" and said if we didn't have GPS, "you wouldn't even know what city you're in in St. Louis County." Like Richey, he referred to the county when speaking for the bill. 

Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, opposed the bill, saying she thinks this is another example of a "one size fits all" solution to an issue that looks different in different communities across the state.

"I understand that community policing is a lot more easy in a homogenous community," Aune said. "But when we're talking about communities like St. Louis, in Kansas City, we are talking about very diverse communities."

She urged her peers to consider that communities around the state are very different and "the needs of one city may or may not match the needs of another." 

The issue of police officers understanding the cultural landscape of the community they serve was a focal point in the Democrats' arguments. 

Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, D-St. Louis, was concerned about police officers understanding the people in her district.

"When we talk about police in our areas, we want to be able to make sure they understand the people who live in the areas and people who are low-income and impoverished," Collins said.  

Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, said he believes there are police officers who do not live in St. Louis that understand poverty and crime but that living nearby is still important.

"I think no matter what the officer looks like, white or Black, it's important just to have officers that live within that radius to culturally understand the economic income and zip code," Aldridge said. 

The bill now makes its way to the Senate for debate. 

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  • State government reporter for the Missourian. Studying investigative journalism. Reach me at judyylucas@gmail.com or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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