Today's Bylaw Officers
All of the changes mentioned above have created a class of employees, who previously just handled one task or assignment, such as animal control, who are now engaged in a variety of quasi-police activities, especially enforcement roles that for lack of staffing are not handled by police officers. Contrary to popular belief, although some work conducted by Bylaw Enforcement Officers can be very minor in gravity, such as issuing tickets for expired meters, many of the investigational and enforcement duties conducted by bylaw officers are extremely important and necessary for the well-being of society. Dog attacks, for example, can be very serious events, where people or other animals can be gravely hurt. In most jurisdictions with bylaw officers, investigational work concerning dog attacks is conducted solely by the bylaw officers, without any police involvement. Such work can prevent future attacks, protect society from harm and/or cause an animal to be euthanized and its owners to face severe fines. As well, Bylaw Enforcement Officers care for and protect animals, help mediate neighbourhood disputes, assure public safety by investigating illegal garbage/waste dumping and enforce regulations, the absence of which can severely impact a person's well-being, such as late-night noise from frequent parties that prevents a neighbourhood from sleeping. Furthermore, Bylaw Enforcement Officers are the first line of defense against a physical degradation of a neighbourhood or area, which can start with a broken window, lead to unsightly premises, and soon be littered with garbage, illegal signs, uninsured vehicles and lower real estate values. Bylaw Enforcement is instrumental in preserving well-functioning neighbourhoods and fixing problematic ones.
In the United States, and even in some places in Canada, municipal enforcement personnel can even be found in police and municipal departments providing security to prisoners, guarding court houses, investigating dog fighting or writing parking tickets. This has led to increased police training, and in the United States, arming of these officials. The New York branch of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) employs several animal "cops" who are armed and have policing powers. This arrangement is becoming more common throughout the United States, particularly in larger cities where civilian enforcement personnel have difficulty conducting investigations due to a lack of cooperation from suspects. In Canada, many jurisdictions are training their bylaw personnel in self-defense and control tactics, and issuing equipment such as tactical batons and OC spray. Such changes have also made a career in municipal enforcement more dangerous, requiring more skills and training, and accordingly offering greater compensation. Security clearances have also become the standard requirement, and as such, the process of becoming employed in one of these positions has become more time consuming. This has also made a career in bylaw enforcement more desirable than ever. The Justice Institute of British Columbia reports that courses they offer in Bylaw Enforcement are the most popular and fill up faster than any other. However, this field is growing quickly as municipalities seek to streamline costs and save on policing expenses; as well, many incumbents in the field are older, and due to relatively good municipal pension options, early retirements are possible and therefore prospects for employment in this area are good. Current standards for employment of uniformed bylaw enforcement officers are usually not codified state or province-wide, as flexibility is necessary, but usually include the precondition that candidates have a fairly clean driving record and an ability to pass a criminal records check. As the use of bylaw officers for more complex tasks increases, it is to be expected that standards for the profession will likely become regulated or imposed from a state/provincial governmental body.
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