Threats to Code Enforcement Officers Rise as Two Officer Safety Bills Stall in the SenateMay 12, 2021 12:00AM ● By By Will Hixson, California Association of Code Enforcement Officers
SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) – As acts of violence and threats towards code enforcement officers rise, two California Senate bills aimed at increasing safety measures have stalled after being placed on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. At a time when violent acts against code enforcement officers are on the rise, stalling these two bills on the suspense file is particularly alarming.
Code enforcement officers risk their lives to uphold the public health, safety and general welfare standards that protect people, property values, and the environment. In many jurisdictions, code enforcement officers are now tasked with enforcement of various violations traditionally addressed by sworn police/sheriff personnel. These violations include, but are not limited to, illegal cannabis operations, illicit massage operations and homeless encampment abatement. Code enforcement officers are also the first-line enforcers of COVID-19 regulations, and do considerable enforcement against slumlords who operate in underserved communities.
Since 2015, the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers (CACEO) has received 86 reports of safety incidents including, but not limited to: nine death threats, 11 physical assaults, 10 occurrences of weapon brandishing, 17 physical threats, and six stalking incidents. Tragically, 20 code enforcement officers have given their lives over the years. Because there is no requirement to report safety incidents to CACEO, the true numbers are likely higher than the aforementioned figures indicate.
Code enforcement officers are now, more than ever, living with the fear of threats to their lives. In January, a Sacramento County inspector was stabbed outside of a strip mall. The week prior, a Tracy resident was accused of attempted homicide after he intentionally hit a code enforcement officer with his vehicle. Sadly, these are just two recent examples of the many incidents of homicide or attempted homicide on a code enforcement officer in recent years.
Earlier this year, CACEO introduced Senate Bills 101 and 296 which are aimed at increasing code enforcement officer safety. Senate Bill 101, sponsored by Senator Jim Nielsen, would close the loophole in existing law by prohibiting the disclosure of the home addresses of code enforcement officers by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This bill will add an important layer of safety that will help ensure that all code enforcement officers will have their DMV information protected.
Senate Bill 296, sponsored by Senator Monique Limón, would require cities and counties to establish safety protocols specific to the duties and risks faced by code enforcement officers in their particular jurisdictions. Currently, many jurisdictions do not have programs to properly train and help protect code enforcement officers from threats, assaults, batteries, or worse.
Both senate bills have been placed on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. The suspense file is where the committee pigeon holes all bills that are purported to have cost issues. This despite the fact that SB 101 includes language which provides that all costs associated with its adoption will be covered through a fee paid by the applicant for the service provided by the DMV. SB 296 also does not require new spending or costs. As written, jurisdictions will retain the control to design and implement training and safety protocols within their existing budgets based on the dynamics of their community.
CACEO is urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to remove both bills from the suspense file to allow them to proceed with the legislative process. With the rise in violence and threats towards code enforcement officers, the stakes have never been higher. It’s time for state representatives to demonstrate that code enforcement officer safety matters and that a dollar value cannot be placed on the life of a public servant.