Excerpt of Burien’s controversial Ordinance #606. Click image to see larger version.[/caption] by Jack Mayne The American Civil Liberties Union says Burienâ€™s new trespass ordinance (#606, available here) should be repealed because it is â€œcounterproductive and unconstitutional.”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, â€œalready empower police officers to cite or arrest those whose conduct poses a genuine risk of harm to others.â€ But the new ordinance â€œgoes much further, designating a broad, vaguely-defined set of behaviorsâ€¦â€ It includes â€œpersonal attributes such as â€œloud vocal expressionâ€ or â€œboisterous physical behavior,â€ â€œaggressive language or gestures.â€ Instead, they move it elsewhere and fail to address the underlying issues of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness.â€ The letter says homeless people â€œwho 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.â€ 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, â€œâ€¦ 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.â€ The fact the ordinance says â€œconstitutionally protected action or speechâ€ is not within the scope of the measure â€œdoes not resolve its constitutional problemsâ€ but â€œexacerbates the vagueness of the law.” That is because the individual police officer using â€œsubjective perceptionsâ€ and not the conduct of the people involved to determine who can be excluded from public places â€œthey otherwise have the right to be in.â€ The city would be â€œbetter servedâ€ if it used existing laws to control â€œdangerous, disruptive, or other criminal conduct.â€ It should not use â€œa vague, overbroad trespass statute that invites arbitrary enforcement, neglects the underlying problem, wastes scarce public safety dollars, and is vulnerable to constitutional challenge…â€ â€œWe ask you to repeal the ordinance,â€ the ACLU letter said. The full ACLU letter can be viewed/downloaded here (PDF file).]]>
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