Why agencies differ on the importance of a first responder’s ZIP code

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Should first responders be able to live outside the area they serve? It’s a question being considered in Nashville.

On Tuesday, state senators voted to advance a bill that would ban county and city governments from setting residency requirements. If passed it would include law enforcement officers, firefighters, and medical personnel.

We found local agencies with residency requirements in place in our region.

Officers with the Sevierville Police Department must live in Sevier County or within a 25-mile radius of the police department, according to Bob Stahlke, Public Information Officer for the city.

Maryville Police officers must live in Blount County within one year of being hired, according to Chief Tony Crisp. He wrote in an email: “our reason is being part of the community in which you work at, along with being able to respond back to the station in the event of an emergency.”

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office had a similar requirement, until recently.

Jimmy Davis, LCSO’s Chief Deputy, explained it used to be a contingency because it kept employment opportunities local and helped deputies get to know the people they served; however, due to higher turnover and competition from surrounding agencies, Davis said, they’ve found ways to modernize.

Davis believes they’re competitive through pay, benefits, and scheduling.

“It’s a different game. There’s a lot more turnover in this line of work. People will come for a few years, find out it’s not for them, or get frustrated, or move elsewhere for better money…We’ve lost several officers within the last three or four years to surrounding cities,” he said.

ZIP code is no longer a make-or-break factor in their hiring process.

“There may not be enough jobs in smaller communities or they have smaller departments and sometimes there’s just a not a lot of turnover. So, we look outside competitive that we’ll take as many people, good people, as we can from outside the county,” Davis added.

LCSO does require patrol deputies to live within 25 miles of the county line to take patrol cars home. That restriction would not change under Senate Bill 29.

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