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Bill Protecting Code Enforcement Officers Heads to Governor

Cities Urged to Request Governor’s Signature on League Co-Sponsored Legislation

August 24, 2016
Legislation establishing the Code Enforcement Officers Standards Act is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Co-sponsored by the League and the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers, Assembly Member Ken Cooley’s (D-Rancho Cordova) AB 2228 directs the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers to develop and maintain standards for the various classes of Certified Code Enforcement Officers. Standardized training will ensure consistent enforcement, improve officer safety, in addition to reducing potential local agency liability. This measure promotes such training without imposing a mandate of any kind.

Uniform training standards will address potential liability issues that some cities have confronted as a result of inconsistent and improper enforcement. In addition, this measure addresses the critical need for improved training required to help ensure officer safety in adversarial situations that can turn violent, including early recognition of danger signs. This measure will facilitate consistent adherence to due process procedures and enhance working conditions for code enforcement officers, as well as the quality of service they provide their respective communities.
A key impetus for this bill has been the frequency of threats against and assaults upon code enforcement officers while serving warrants, issuing citations for code violations, enforcing animal control regulations, and conducting inspections. This has given rise to the need for enhanced training for code enforcement officers in terms of situational awareness and protecting their own safety. 
Currently, training of code enforcement officers is not uniform across jurisdictions and is in part dependent on local resources. In some instances, municipal code enforcement officers have failed to observe due process procedures when addressing violations, triggering liability for cities. In September 2008, in Moreno v. City of Sacramento, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the city to pay $782,623 for damages and plaintiff’s attorneys fees resulting from violations of a store owner’s constitutional due process rights that resulted in the improper demolition of a building that he owned and was in the process of renovating in response to a city code enforcement action.
In fairness, in many jurisdictions code enforcement is a catch-all local regulatory function in which random responsibilities not clearly within the scope of duties of other municipal departments, end up in the hands of code enforcement officers. The variety of responsibilities they are asked to undertake has led code enforcement officers to evolve into regulatory generalists, in some cases without appropriate or adequate training for the specific responsibility to be discharged. The Moreno litigation is evidence that municipalities can avoid significant liability if they are provided a mechanism for uniform training in constitutional law, supervision, and professional ethics. This measure provides that mechanism, at absolutely no cost to the state.
Next Steps
Cities are urged to send Governor Brown a letter requesting his signature on AB 2228. A sample letter cities can use is available at www.cacities.org/billsearch by plugging AB 2228 into the search function.

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