City officials have begun the task of updating ordinances to comply with a Dec. 1 deadline that will affect whether violations are considered a criminal infraction that could lead to arrest or a civil infraction that could result in a fine.
Henderson Police Chief Marcus Barrow explained the process to John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk. After consulting with his officers and staff, Barrow said he identified seven ordinances to be updated first. The City Council adopted the updated ordinances at its most recent meeting.
Back in 2018, Barrow said the state asked cities and municipalities for a list of ordinances that were enforceable by law enforcement personnel. Previously, the wording had indicated that “unless otherwise stated,” all ordinances were enforceable through citation or arrest. However, “a lot of things (have) happened in law enforcement” since then, Barrow said. The state General Assembly attached to a police reform bill that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law in September a laundry list of items that affect city and municipal governments statewide.
In laymen’s terms, effective Dec. 1, unless specifically stated, all city ordinances are not enforceable by law enforcement officers. Barrow said the state basically changed the way ordinances must be written; “unless the ordinance specifically says it’s a criminal offense, it will not be,” he explained.
The first group of ordinances that were updated and adopted by the City Council are:
City Manager Terrell Blackmon said this group of ordinances were chosen first because they are important for public safety.
He said a team of city officials is going to review all ordinances in the near future to update wording and possibly remove outdated ordinances.
“(The team) includes both chiefs, the city clerk, city attorney, development services director and myself that will be working on this project,” Blackmon told WIZS News via email. “We may also solicit the services of an external consultant to pull it all together once we have identified other ordinances that may need to be addressed,” he said.
Barrow said cities, including Henderson, may see an increase in civil actions instead of citations and arrests when ordinances are violated – fines and not crimes, he added. But what happens when someone goes to collect those fines or impose a civil action? “We can always go with them to maintain peace and order,” Barrow said. He predicts that cities and municipalities across the state will have to make some adjustments after the Dec. 1 deadline passes, but he said Henderson is in pretty good shape.
Because the police department is internationally accredited, it had already addressed the majority of tweaks and adjustments called for by the state.
“We’re sitting OK right now,” Barrow said.