Some of Key West’s Code Compliance officers have grave concerns about the city’s expectations with regard to their enforcement of the city’s 10 p.m. curfew on New Year’s Eve, according to some who contacted the Keys Weekly, but asked not to be identified.
The officers said they met briefly on Dec. 16 with city officials to discuss their concerns and then sent a petition via email outlining their concerns and requests to their supervisor, Code Director Jim Young, Assistant City Manager Patti McLauchlin and director of human resources Samantha Farist.
The petition seeks appropriate personal protective gear for COVID, including KN-95 masks and hand sanitizer, body armor or other protective uniforms, additional training such as pressure point control tactics that police use, reimbursement for COVID testing costs and hazard compensation for curfew duties they say will place them squarely in harm’s way of both COVID and defiant drunks on Duval Street.
The code officers, who have written numerous citations to enforce the city’s mask mandate in recent weeks, have endured profanity and verbal harassment, spitting and at least one physical confrontation, Young told the city commissioners at a meeting in November.
But the code officers, who typically investigate illegal vacation rentals and unpermitted construction, don’t receive any of the same training as sworn police officers when it comes to de-escalating heated situations. Code officers don’t carry guns, and have not been allowed to carry pepper spray. Meanwhile, some of the people they’ve encountered downtown in recent weeks have been armed, the officers wrote in their letter to officials.
Upon receiving the petition, Young told the Keys Weekly, “The city of Key West takes their concerns very seriously and will do everything to ensure that all employees have the necessary training and tools to perform the tasks they are assigned.”
McLauchlin also followed up on the letter, and met immediately with Young, City Manager Greg Veliz and Mayor Teri Johnston to go through each concern individually.
“I think we’re all a little anxious about New Year’s Eve,” McLauchlin said. “And we are all very concerned with our employees’ safety, particularly as they’re out there on the front lines. We’ve spent thousands of dollars on additional masks for our personnel and I’ve made it mandatory that our code officers walk with a sworn police officer when downtown for the holidays. On New Year’s Eve, they’ll also be with a firefighter as well.”
McLauchlin could not discuss the officers’ requests related to their pay, as that involves collective bargaining agreements with the officers’ union.