The Puyallup City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposal to update the city’s public trespass policy. It would give city staff members more flexibility to keep troublesome people away from city facilities, such as parks and the Puyallup Public Library.
The new policy would allow city staff, not just law enforcement officers, to issue trespass notices to individuals violating rules or breaking laws.
It was spurred by safety concerns at the library, where a staff member was assaulted by a patron late last year.
“It’s really there to protect individuals,” said Shawn Arthur, Puyallup’s senior assistant city attorney.
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It would expand on a policy the city has deemed inflexible in dealing with people “whose behavior is dangerous, unsafe, illegal, or unreasonably disruptive to other users,” the proposed ordinance states.
City Manager Kevin Yamamoto put it simply at a recent council meeting:
“What’s on the books now is junk,” he said.
Duration of a trespass notice would range from 45 days to five years, depending on the severity of the violation and how many times an individual has been cited.
If a patron has been issued two or more trespass notices in a two-year span, for example, he or she could be barred from the property for five years.
In all cases, the city could extend or reduce the duration “in order to more effectively protect the health, safety or welfare of persons or property,” the ordinance states.
Individuals who are issued notices would have the opportunity to appeal within 14 calendar days.
“You can’t do one-size-fits-all,” City Attorney Steve Kirkelie said. “I think this ordinance recognizes that.”
The proposal was introduced at a meeting June 16. Council members appeared cautiously optimistic at that time about increasing flexibility for trespass notices.
Councilman John Palmer said he supports the intent, but cautioned that granting authority to ban patrons to a “broad array” of people could be risky.
“We could get into trouble with that,” Palmer said.
Councilman Tom Swanson stressed that he doesn’t want staff in charge of discipline in the context of criminal behavior.
Councilman Steve Vermillion said disruptive behavior is subjective.
“Are we opening Pandora’s box here for throwing out all the homeless people who appear to be disruptive according to someone’s opinion?” Vermillion asked. But he added that the ordinance is “a strong step in the right direction.”
Yamamoto, the city manager, acknowledged those concerns. Right now, he noted, the only ones with authority to control city property and access to it are the city manager and City Council.
He said he would work with the legal department to develop a detailed procedure regarding who would have trespass-notice authority.
“There’s going to have to be a delegation of authority,” Yamamoto said. “We’ll be happy to develop a strong procedure.”
Councilwoman Heather Shadko said the proposal would empower staff to deal with potentially dangerous situations “immediately when an incident happens.”
Kirkelie, the city attorney, said that after last year’s assault at the library, officials realized there aren’t enough safeguards. The policy allows officials to ban someone only for 45 days.
Tuesday’s proposal is just the first step, he added.
“I think this is one piece of the puzzle,” Kirkelie said. “Hopefully it will be a piece that is effective. If not, we will certainly go back to the drawing board.”