No national standard protecting code inspectors, advocates say

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Like police, they’re there to uphold our laws, but one advocacy group says violence against code enforcement officers is on the rise nationwide.

Wednesday, a man shot at Austin Code inspectors who were trying to cut his grass. He died following a SWAT standoff at his home in southwest Austin.

“It’s very sad to hear about an incident like this in Austin,” said Justin Edson, president of the board of directors for the Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation.

The foundation was formed just last year and aims to raise awareness about the dangers code inspectors may encounter on the job. Edson told us the group tracks incidents targeting these employees nationwide, from verbal threats to homicides.

“The incidents have been increasing,” said Edson. “Last year, we had about 34 incidents. This year, we’re up to about 32. So we’re on track to be equal, if not more than last year.”

The Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation offers training to code inspectors, including tactical mindset, fear management and verbal de-escalation training. Edson says the foundation’s goal is the creation of national safety standards for code inspectors.

Incidents targeting code enforcement officers, tracked by the Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation (Courtesy: Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation)
Incidents targeting code enforcement officers, tracked by the Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation (Courtesy: Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation)

Right now, there aren’t any. Edson chalks that up to Code Enforcement being a relatively new profession.

“[Code Enforcement] officer safety is becoming more of a priority, because there’s an increase in these incidents,” he said. “We need to centralize the information: the reporting, the training and really try to unify our profession to understand there are safety risks out there.”

The only state that has passed a law protecting these employees is California. It requires local jurisdictions within the state to implement safety standards for code officers. The state would then reimburse any costs to those entities.

California State Senator Monique Limón sponsored the bill. It was signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month and will go into effect in January.

We had been hearing year after year that they were unfortunately being put in very difficult situations,” Limón told us.

Austin Code Enforcement has not told us what standards or training it has for its code officers. One rule we do know: police have to accompany code officers if they serve a search warrant, like was done in this case.

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