Are Code Enforcement Officers Paid to Think?

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Are you empowered or being “paid to think” at your organization? This concept unfortunately has become patronizing to employees who in some cases discovered they had lots of responsibility and did not truly have authority. There are some local governments that value initiative, creativity and encourage innovation; however, some people wonder what the boundaries are. As a code official, can you experiment and improve processes if safety, ethics, regulations, and quality are not sacrificed?

The necessity for regulatory enforcement comes from communities that create codes and laws in the first place, which seeks to establish a set of stipulated “rules” for society to function without crime and chaos. The purpose of regulatory enforcement is to minimize the violation of these rules and diminish social disobedience.

In previous blogs, I have asserted the fact that successful businesses, local governments, and organizations that have standard operating procedures and other systems in place are more effective in delivering services. Although most regulatory officers/code officials have a set of rules to follow as they complete tasks, as well as a system of processes and policies that govern operations (not to mention state and local law), does it help to “think” about potential outcomes as you follow these rules?.

When regulatory staff first field citizen complaints about the hazards of potential non-compliant properties, they often respond by exercising their code enforcement authorities. Proper use of discretion is probably the most important measure of a code enforcement officer or department. Best practices in the regulatory field suggest that a code officer would never be efficient if that officer strictly enforced every violation observed to the “letter of the law” without first thinking.  

Few things involved with human behavior are black or white. The best officers operate in the gray areas of human existence. This gray area is where citizens need the code officers to operate with confidence and good judgment so that residents can be educated and comply with the codes and ordinances. I can tell you from personal experience some people need citations, and other people deserve warnings, with a little help on how to achieve compliance.  

While this system is far from perfect, it works. Just like our government, there are checks and balances that should be built into the system as well as room to think. Code officers enforce the laws based on general directions given to them by their administration, the prosecutor’s office and the courts but backed by local, state, and federal law; so while we can debate if you are being paid enough, you are certainly “paid to think”.  

Published by Marcus Kellum

Emerging Leader and Consummate Professional.

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