As a regulator or code official studying the history of codes, you often begin your journey by learning that the Code of Hammurabi was one of the earliest and most complete written legal codes. It was a collection of 282 rules (known as the Hammurabi code of laws) that established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice, and was proclaimed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C. (That might be on a test, so remember that!)
Naturally, with the implementation of these “requirements of justice,” one would argue there was a need for people to actually enforce these codes, which in turn gave birth to the forefathers of regulatory and code enforcement officials. Traditional code enforcement, as I have mentioned in previous posts, help protect the safety and health of citizens by ensuring that buildings and land in a particular local government (counties, cities and towns) are maintained in accordance with housing and zoning ordinances. In addition to inspection and investigation of properties, code enforcement officials determine the nature of environmental or health hazards, nuisance violations and unsafe conditions. Often, when regulatory staff determine there are violations, they often respond by exercising their code enforcement authorities to obtain compliance.
A decade ago, we saw code enforcement related activities gain national attention after the housing crisis left municipalities littered with vacant and abandoned properties. Once again, the need for people to enforce codes that help protect the safety and health of citizens was necessary to cure the blight that affected communities throughout the country; but unfortunately, local governments did not provide the proper level of support (staffing, equipment or enabling legislation). Code officials across the nation persevered with the tools they had available and helped communities heal.
2020 has once again redefined the true value of code enforcement activities as the coronavirus caused communities to depend on regulatory officials to deal with violations of newly enacted codes regulating social distancing, shelter in place orders, and masking requirements. While it is clear there are still many miles ahead of us as we combat the pandemic, it is a fact that the virus has upended the daily lives of people around the world. For code officials, the virus has led to the new categorization of “essential” worker, an industry shift to remote inspections and other changes that will permanently transform the way we work.
There is a new age in code enforcement, and it was as clear to king Hammurabi, as it should be clear to today’s local government leaders that code enforcement and regulatory officials are drivers of change in a community. Code enforcement services are equal partners in the effective management of the quality of life of a community and deserve to be in the room where it happens!
About the author: Marcus Kellum, MMPA CCEA
Marcus Kellum has worked with local governments, private businesses, and professional organizations across the country to train their regulatory, compliance and enforcement officers and inspectors. He spent nearly three decades in public service working with various cities and counties in Georgia, Colorado, and the City of New York. He has held positions as code division manager, chief of enforcement, and department director. Marcus is a Certified Code Enforcement Administrator and holds a BS in criminal justice administration, and a master’s degree in management and public administration.