Cov­ing­ton to move forward with city mar­shals

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT jgutknecht@cov­news.com

Cov­ing­ton City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight has been given the green light to move ahead with im­ple­ment­ing the Cov­ing­ton City Mar­shal po­si­tions af­ter a ma­jor­ity con­sen­sus from the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil Mon­day night.

The coun­cil con­ducted a work ses­sion Mon­day night with the ob­jec­tive of talk­ing to the cur­rent code en- force­ment of­fi­cers and com­ing to a de­ci­sion about the pro­posed mar­shal po­si­tions. The coun­cil ap­proved the tran­si­tion from code en­force­ment of­fi­cers to city mar­shals for the plan­ning and zon­ing depart­ment in Oc­to­ber of last year. Since then Knight, as the city man­ager, had the au­thor­ity to make the per­son­nel changes to im­ple­ment the mar­shal po­si­tions but wanted to get the coun­cil’s in­put be­fore of­fi­cially mak­ing any changes.

The coun­cil unan­i­mously agreed the process of city code en­force­ment needs the mar­shal ti­tle to help ex­pe­dite the process. How­ever, the coun­cil could not come to a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion on the equip­ment needed to per­form the job.

With a 3-3 con­sen­sus from coun­cilmem­bers, Mayor Ron­nie Johnston broke the tie to pro­vide Knight with the ma­jor­ity opin­ion she was re­quest­ing. City mar­shals will un­dergo a six month trial pe­riod fully equipped with hand­guns, which was the main point of con­tention be­tween coun­cilmem­bers.

City At­tor­ney Frank Turner said mar­shals are not re­quired to be equipped with a firearm to per­form their po­si­tion legally. The dif­fer­ence be­tween a reg­u­lar code en­force­ment of­fi­cer and a city mar­shal are the law en­force­ment pow­ers that comes with it. City mar­shals would be cer­ti­fied peace of­fi­cers and have the abil­ity to

is­sue stronger court or­ders than they cur­rently have.

Ac­cord­ing to the City Mar­shal’s Stan­dard Op­er­a­tion Pro­ce­dure (SOP) within the CPD, pro­vided to The Cov­ing­ton News by Knight, it is the CPD’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to work in con­junc­tion with the city’s Plan­ning & Zon­ing (P&Z) Depart­ment to es­tab­lish and main­tain the po­si­tion. It would be the CPD’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and man­dated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the po­si­tions, while the day-to-date oper­a­tions of the per­son­nel would fall un­der the P&Z depart­ment.

Knight said the tran­si­tion into the armed city mar­shal roles will come into full ef­fect no later than the end of April to pro­vide time for the city to or­der uni­forms and equip­ment. The two cur­rent code en­force­ment of­fi­cers that will be tran­si­tioned into mar­shals are Danny Bartello and Jim Berry, who both pre­vi­ously have the re­quired POST cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

City Mar­shal Pro­ce­dures

The fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures were pulled di­rectly from the CPD City Mar­shal SOP. The SOP can be viewed in its en­tirety at www.cov­news.com.

The City Mar­shal is re­spon­si­ble for the daily en­force­ment of City of Cov­ing­ton Or­di­nances deal­ing with build­ing and zon­ing codes. In doing so, the Mar­shal shall en­force all rel­e­vant codes and or­di­nances of the City of Cov­ing­ton.

The City Mar­shal should rec­og­nize that ser­vice to the ci­ti­zens of Cov­ing­ton is a ma­jor func­tion of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The Mar­shal should try to as­sist ci­ti­zens as much as pos­si­ble and to ed­u­cate as well as en­force the codes and or­di­nances.

The City Mar­shal shall be a cer­ti­fied law en­force­ment of­fi­cer with a cur­rent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion with Ge­or­gia POST Coun­cil. The Mar­shal also must be cur­rent with his or her firearms qual­i­fi­ca­tions and re­quired train­ing hours.

The City Mar­shal shall fol­low all po­lice depart­ment rules and reg­u­la­tions and city poli­cies as they re­late to en­force­ment re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (i.e. code of con­duct, use of force, etc).

If a City Mar­shal en­coun­ters a sit­u­a­tion that es­ca­lates to the level of a crim­i­nal mat­ter, they should im­me­di­ately call for the Po­lice Depart­ment’s Com­pli­ance Of­fi­cer or a Cov­ing­ton po­lice of­fi­cer to re­spond to the scene to pro­vide as­sis­tance. The City Mar­shal will then at­tempt to de-es­ca­late and con­trol the sit­u­a­tion us­ing that level of force that is law­ful and nec­es­sary to en­sure the safety of the City Mar­shal and any third par­ties in­volved.

Any com­plaints lodged against a City Mar­shal shall be ad­dressed by the Di­rec­tor of Plan­ning and Zon­ing. The Di­rec­tor may re­quest as­sis­tance from the Po­lice Depart­ment’s In­ter­nal Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, if deemed nec­es­sary.

The City Mar­shal shall wear a uni­form that clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ates them from a po­lice of­fi­cer, while also iden­ti­fy­ing them as a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer. They will be armed with a 9mm Glock pis­tol, hand­cuffs, pep­per spray, body ar­mor, body worn cam­era and any other equip­ment deemed nec­es­sary to ac­com­plish their mis­sion.

The City Mar­shal has the au­thor­ity to en­force all City of Cov­ing­ton codes and or­di­nances and any state laws ap­pli­ca­ble to the nature of their job re­spon­si­bil­i­ties or that re­sult from their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Submitted photo | The Cov­ing­ton News

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