House OKs Bennett bill nixing state residency requirements for police, firefighters
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. David A. Bennett to eliminate requirements that firefighters or police officers in Rhode Island live within the state.
The legislation (2017-H 5351) prohibits municipal charters and ordinances from requiring that police officers and firefighters live in the state. Existing law already forbids requirements that they live within the town or city where they work.
Representative Bennett said he filed the legislation to expand the pool of candidates for public safety jobs, and to ensure that the most qualified applicants available can be hired.
“If we take our commitment to diversity in the ranks seriously, we need to get rid of unnecessary limits on who can be hired. We want more minorities and more women to serve as police and firefighters, and residency requirements have the effect of barring the door for people,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston). “Let’s open the door so our departments can attract more candidates.”
Representative Bennett said he believes the bill will benefit Rhode Islanders by ensuring the most qualified candidates available are being hired, thereby ensuring high-quality employees are protecting public safety.
The issue is particularly relevant for border towns, he said. Westerly, for example, shouldn’t be prohibited from hiring a great candidate just because he or she lives next door in Stonington, Connecticut.
“Departments should always be able to hire the best candidate for the job, and removing this limit will ensure they can,” he said.
The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) and Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton). It will now head to the Senate, where Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston) has introduced identical legislation (2017-S 0512).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903