ACLU wants City of Burien’s ‘trespass’ Ordinance #606 repealed


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BurienOrdinance606Excerpt3

Excerpt of Burien’s controversial Ordinance #606. Click image to see larger version.

by Jack Mayne

The American Civil Liberties Union says Burien’s new trespass ordinance (#606, available here) should be repealed because it is “counterproductive and unconstitutional.”

In a letter dated and delivered on Monday (Oct. 6) to Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and other Councilmembers, Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the ACLU of Washington, said that aside from the newly-passed ordinance, the city already had laws to keep parks, libraries and offices safe.

These laws, the ACLU said, “already empower police officers to cite or arrest those whose conduct poses a genuine risk of harm to others.”

But the new ordinance “goes much further, designating a broad, vaguely-defined set of behaviors…”

It includes “personal attributes such as “loud vocal expression” or “boisterous physical behavior,” “aggressive language or gestures.”

Instead, they move it elsewhere and fail to address the underlying issues of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness.”

The letter says homeless people “who are slapped with criminal penalties under this ordinance will face additional barriers to finding employment and housing, while the city bears the costs of their arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and public defense.”

The Council, when it adopted the ordinance on Aug. 18, said people ordered away from city property would not be arrested, nor jailed, and Burien Police have said those violating laws that required arrest would be charged under other city or state laws.

The ACLU letter said, “… this ordinance blurs the line between poor manners (cursing, expressing strong emotions, talking loudly on a mobile phone) and truly dangerous or criminal behavior. Courts have taken a dim view of novel civility standards such as the ones in this ordinance, for which there is neither a known legal standard nor a specific definition.”

ACLULetterExcerpt2The fact the ordinance says “constitutionally protected action or speech” is not within the scope of the measure “does not resolve its constitutional problems” but “exacerbates the vagueness of the law.” That is because the individual police officer using “subjective perceptions” and not the conduct of the people involved to determine who can be excluded from public places “they otherwise have the right to be in.”

The city would be “better served” if it used existing laws to control “dangerous, disruptive, or other criminal conduct.”

It should not use “a vague, overbroad trespass statute that invites arbitrary enforcement, neglects the underlying problem, wastes scarce public safety dollars, and is vulnerable to constitutional challenge…”

“We ask you to repeal the ordinance,” the ACLU letter said.

The full ACLU letter can be viewed/downloaded here (PDF file).

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Comments

13 Responses to “ACLU wants City of Burien’s ‘trespass’ Ordinance #606 repealed”
  1. Question Authority says:

    From my casual perception as I visit downtown the ordinance has helped, or the word on the street has tightened up the “reasons” it was enacted. Thank you Burien for stepping up to the plate, and nobody has been hurt, damaged or billyclubbed by enforcing it finally!

  2. JJ Greive says:

    This is a poorly thought out ordinance and should be repealed.

  3. Burien voter says:

    Whether anyone likes them or not, the ACLU has been at this kind of thing a whole lot longer than the Burien City Council has, and when they sue over these kinds of issues, they don’t usually lose. So it will be with this ordinance. The council would be well advised to repeal it, before the city gets sued and has to pay out a lot of money in legal bills that would be better used for city services.

    If and when that happens, all the Council members who supported this awful ordinance should be voted out of office summarily.

  4. Question Authority says:

    Did you hear the one about the bus load of ACLU lawyers? It’s a sad story because that bus went off a cliff and there was one empty seat. KAPOWW! That group has taken the majority of the causes presented to them and twisted the reality of that topic into something that suits their attention gathering flavor of the moment. Let’s be clear as I wrap this up, I love my rights and my freedom and all that but this topic and the attention it has brought Burien is OUR community problem and not anyone else’s to address or be concerned with. Just because Lauren Berkaitz is a card carrying member of the ACLU and has them on speed dial should not influence the reality of why the ordinance was enacted.

    • Burien voter says:

      “I love my rights and my freedom and all that but this topic and the attention it has brought Burien is OUR community problem and not anyone else’s to address or be concerned with.”

      That’s utter rubbish. The civil rights of people anywhere in the United States are every American citizen’s business. Your position is exactly, word-for-word, the same position that defenders of segregated public facilities took in the South. You’re entitled to it, but most people today — even in Burien, I’d venture to say — will find it unacceptable.

      • Question Authority says:

        The right to be a obnoxious, violent non rational and possibly stinky non contributing member of society who mooches off the system that my taxes support is not what the founding fathers had in mind when it came to rights. My right is to consider that a problem that needs fixing.

        • Burien voter says:

          Consider it all you want to. If the ACLU sues Burien, it’s going to win, hands down, and YOU and your like-minded citizens will be responsible for the outgo of tax dollars to the city’s legal costs. I’ll remember that the next time you post here about fiscal responsibility.

          • Question Authority says:

            If and when that is the case, the City already has a lawyer on the daily payroll so the expense will be the same if they did nothing that day instead. So, your wrong about additional cost occured, and if your also a resident it will be your taxes just same whether you like it or not.

            • What About... says:

              Opportunity Costs.

            • eric says:

              If you looked, a case like the one the ACLU will bring against the City is almost always handled by outside council. If there is no compromise, the City will get its check book out, win or lose. I predict the City will lose, and may well end up paying the ACLU’s attorney’s fees too.

  5. Nic says:

    The ordinance may be vague, but it addresses a real issue that people are facing: it is becoming increasing unsafe and uncomfortable for families with young children to use public parks and libraries or transit centers. I have personally experienced homeless teens acting aggressive, using foul language, spitting and smoking within several feet of the library door. After you run this gauntlet, I have then been disgusted to see homeless men (with foul body odor) viewing porn on library computers. Neither I or my children nor anyone else’s children should have to accept this just to research and check out books! Our public areas need to be safe environments for our most vulnerable: our children. I applaud Burien for taking some kind of initiative.

  6. Educated Kid says:

    I agree that this should be repealed. While I have personally experienced similar problems, having ridden the metro from the transit center daily for a year, I still think this is going too far. This law makes it too easy for the cops to loosely interpret well…anything as breaking the law. Should an officer decide to abuse his power, he could arrest a skater for being “unreasonably smelly” while he was at a skatepark. It wouldn’t be popular, and it probably wouldn’t even stick. But it would be legal. And that alone is BULL and all you geezers know it. This law is a bandaid fix at best, and grants police nearly unlimited power to arrest at worst. These problems are symptoms of a greater underlying problem that won’t be fixed with the toss of a hat and some vague words. Also, what is with specifically singling out skaters? I don’t even skate, but not a day goes by when I don’t notice signs specifically prohibiting it and nothing else.

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