Standard operating procedures for code enforcement
Successful businesses and organizations have standard operating procedures and other systems in place. Traditionally, every employee working for an organization has a set of rules to follow as they complete tasks. They may also have instructions that show them exactly how to complete each task. While it may not be considered standard procedures, there is in fact a system of processes and policies that govern code enforcement operations (not to mention state and local law), but well-written standard operating procedures provide direction, improve communication, reduce training time and improve work consistency.
Standard operating procedures used in combination with planned training and regular performance feedback lead to an effective and motivated workforce. Most administrators would agree that we all benefit from consistent work performance and predictable results, and officers and support staff benefit from increased confidence and a clear sense of achievement. In order to effectively delegate tasks to others it’s important to have these systems in place, including training, record keeping, responding to concerns and follow-through on complaints.
A successful code compliance program needs committed officers and other support staff who complete work procedures consistently and accurately. It also requires all involved to contribute their experience, knowledge and ideas to constant improvement for the future. Most people naturally want to do a good job, and successful managers recognize this fact and seek to channel workers’ efforts in ways that will benefit the community.
Generally, when county staff first field citizen complaints about the hazards of vacant or 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.” Furthermore, that officer probably wouldn’t have time to effectively manage their respective workload and respond in a timely manner to all calls for service. Few things involved with human behavior are black or white. The best officers operate in the gray areas of human existence. The gray area is where citizens need the code officers to operate with confidence and good judgment so that the residents can be educated and comply with the codes and ordinances. From personal experience, there are some people who require enforcement activities to comply, and others that deserve warnings, with a little lecture on compliance.
While this system is far from perfect, it works. Just like our government, there are checks and balances in the system. 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. All these entities represent the citizens who elect and fund the system.