The City’s controversial sit-lie ordinance remains unenforced, but the Police Department hopes to finish training for officers and unveil a public education campaign in the next “couple of weeks,” interim police Chief Jeff Godown said Sunday.
The ordinance, which makes it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks, with certain exceptions, between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily, was approved by 54 percent of voters in November.
The law took effect in December, but enforcement, which had been targeted for February, has been slow to roll out.
“My concern was to make sure that we had everybody trained correctly, that we make sure that we get it right,” Godown said. “We don’t want to abuse the new law.”
Among the issues, according to the Police Department, are making sure all officers are trained on the specifics of the new law, and that community stakeholders in each district know what it means. Also, literature is being distributed to local businesses.
Godown said police are developing a computer database to track warnings given by officers.
“It should be another couple of weeks before we get ready to roll it out,” he said.
The law, which was supported by police and local business owners, was intended to curb threatening and nuisance behavior. But some homeless advocates worried it could be used to target homeless people living on the streets.
The ordinance requires officers to first warn someone before citing them. A first citation could bring a fine of $50 to $100 and/or community service. Multiple convictions within one day could increase fines to up to $500 and up to 10 days in County Jail. Repeat offenses in a four-month period could result in up to 30 days in jail.
The law contains exceptions for disabled people in wheelchairs, children in strollers, medical emergencies, parades, protests, lawful sidewalk businesses and sitting in line, as long as pedestrians are not being blocked.
While part of the training for officers includes sensitivity to homeless issues — verbal warnings will be accompanied with literature directing people to social services — enforcement priorities could shift depending on the political winds, said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.
“With laws like this, it’s all about enforcement,” Friedenbach said. “One minute you can have a police chief that wants to just go hard core on one particular community. They could use this law and do just that.”
Friedenbach said The City is currently conducting a search for a permanent police chief.
“It really remains to be seen” how sit-lie will be enforced, she said.
The start of sit-lie enforcement has been pushed back again.
|Nov. 2||Sit-lie ordinance passes|
|Dec. 17||Sit-lie ordinance goes into effect|
|Beginning of February||Enforcement originally pushed back to|
|Unknown||New enforcement rollout|