City code enforcers may be asked to take on some police duties under a new proposal from Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett.
He thinks police are being sent on far too many non-emergency calls because no one else in the city is equipped to deal with neighbor disputes, noise complaints and other non-criminal issues.
“They’re not violations of the criminal code,” Bennett said. “They’re not really police matters. There’s no reason for police to keep going back, settling property disputes that go on week after week, year after year. But lacking anyone else to respond …”
He wants other city officials to handle non-emergency complaints, even though angry residents would almost certainly have to wait until the next business day to get any response to their problem.
“Maybe they could call code,” Bennett said. “You’re warned x number of times by the code enforcer and then you’re cited. The code officer could do that.”
He added that a fine issued by code enforcement could have a more lasting effect than a visit from a police officer, particularly in noise complaints.
“Once the police leave, the noise goes back on again,” he said. “Maybe if they get fined, they’ll stop.”
On the other hand, residents have long complained that police should issue tickets for noise violations. But the infraction is a violation of city code, not state criminal statutes.
Bennett said handing the code violations to code enforcers should be considered because city police are desperately needed for bigger crimes.
“Given the history of the police department that’s been strapped for personnel, is this an appropriate use of personnel?” he said. “It’s wasting the resources. There’s got to be a better way.”
Other city officials have not yet responded to requests for comment, but city Councilman Gary McCarthy agreed police handle too many non-criminal complaints.
“The PD is your high-priced babysitter,” he said.
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