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 held a work session Monday night with the objective of talking to the current code enforcement 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 enough 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 attached to this story.
- 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.