THE DISTRICT government's firing of 10 employees who refused to live in the city points up nothing more than the inadequacy of the city's residency requirement. The mistake in this case was not in the city's intention to have its jobs go to people who live within the District limits. That's a good idea in a city where unemployment among young blue-collar workers, particularly young blacks, is about 30 percent. The mistake was in firing people already hired. The idea of a residency requirement is, after all, simply to give people already in the city a first shot at available jobs.

Similarly, the residency requirement makes no sense when it involves a nurse who lives near Forest Haven, in Maryland, or a jail guard who lives near Lorton, in Virginia. It may be desirable to have neighbors of those institutions working in them. A need for exceptions should also apply to doctors and other skilled personnel who may not be available, or available in the right numbers, in the District.

Then there is race. One reason to enact a residency requirement was to have black people in a mostly black city policed and administered, in good measure, by black policemen and black civil servants. To have a police force composed of surburban whites clearly would not be sensible. But that is not the case. A large number of black city policemen and firemen have moved to the suburbs because of the high cost of suitable city housing. If these people want to live in the suburbs, they should be able to.

Instead of putting the burden of required city residency on their employees, city leaders should meet the need for having more city people in the District government by establishing hiring policies that favor District residents. Recruiters should step up their efforts to sell the idea of working for the District to students in the city's high schools and local colleges. To go beyond that and require employees to move into the city or stay in the city is an infringement on personal rights. It is unnecessary, to boot. The residency requirement should be repealed.