A code enforcement officer is responsible for evaluating private properties and public grounds against local codes, answering citizen questions about the codes, and issuing citations for code violations. The officer may or may not be a certified police or peace officer. Code enforcement officers work to maintain an attractive, safe community, which helps improves both property values and the quality of life of those in the community.
Job duties for such officers can vary dramatically from community to community. Some respond primarily to reports about unsightly lawns, excess signage, nuisance animals, and illegal parking. Others also verify business permits, condemn unsafe buildings, or enforce zoning regulations. Localities that do not staff building inspectors may use code enforcement officers to offer construction planning and inspection services. In general, a code enforcement officer job description might include performing field inspections, responding to citizen reports, evaluating new construction or renovation projects, and responding to questions from the public.
Education requirements for these positions vary based on the assigned job duties. Some jurisdictions stipulate that any employee that is authorized to issue citations must attend and graduate from an authorized police training program. Others give preference to candidates with a degree in political science. Those that assign planning duties to code enforcement officers may require education in planning or engineering.
Another factor that changes based on the locality is certification. Some jurisdictions recognize certifications while others do not. Of those that do, some require it, while others merely prefer it. In addition, some communities offer levels of certification that correspond with levels of employment.
Reporting structure can also vary. These professionals are most often part of the law enforcement department, but may also be a part of the planning and zoning department or, occasionally, a member of the city manager's office. Code enforcement officers are usually appointed or hired, and are generally not elected officials.
The hiring of these officers has become popular with local governments for several reasons. A code enforcement officer is typically focused on handling code violations which, while important, are often neglected because law enforcement personnel are too busy handling more serious offenses. The presence of such officers also serves to reduce citizen complaints. In addition, because most officers usually do not receive danger pay, carry lethal weapons, or have the power of arrest, their salaries, medical insurance, and liability insurance are often less expensive than for regular police officers.