In Sacramento, it's not just the cops who can make arrests

Do you want the power to arrest people, but without the scrutiny that comes with being a cop? Then the city of Sacramento has a job for you—or dozens of them.

On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council is slated to deputize three new animal control officers with the authority to issue citations and make arrests in certain situations. That will bring the total number of community development and public works employees with these powers to 64.

And before anyone starts shouting “Waco!” or freaks out about government outreach, first know that this isn’t a new thing. The city first granted select law enforcement powers to employees working as building inspectors, zoning investigators, code enforcers and animal control officers way back in 1997.

As employees move on or are replaced, the city has to periodically update its list through a new resolution, explained Animal Care Services Manager Gina Knepp. The last time, she believed, was two or three years ago.

“It’s more of a formality,” she told SN&R.

To become sort-of cops, city employees have to pass police background checks and undergo 40 hours of POST-certified training at Sacramento City College, Knepp said. The arrest-and-firearms course is the first step to becoming a peace officer, and certifies its graduates with the legal right to affect an arrest.

The 64 employees who have passed these requirements include Senior Animal Control Officer Jace Huggins, Community Development Director Ryan DeVore and Housing & Dangerous Buildings Chief Carl Simpson, but also dozens of front-line staff who are being granted the ability to enforce state laws concerning animals, labor and vehicles, as well as provisions of the local city code.

For instance, animal control staff can cite or arrest people on charges of animal cruelty, abandonment and being involved in dog- or cock-fighting, among other penal code violations.

“We do a lot of criminal cases having to do with animal cruelty,” said Knepp, pointing to the bizarre animal mutilation spree that has mystified the city for months.

While animal control officers have the legal right to place someone under arrest, it’s not something they typically do, Knepp added, because they don’t have the proper vehicles to transport suspects to the jail. Instead, they’ll call police in for the assist if they believe an arrest is warranted.

“Essentially, we do this so we can issue citations,” Knepp said. “We don’t carry sidearms like a police officer.”

Animal control officers are armed with shotguns and pepper-ball guns for instances in which a large animal has to be dispatched, she noted.

Some of the other businesses and professions potentially affected by this policy are strip clubs, massage parlors, medical marijuana dispensaries, food trucks, fortune tellers, auctions and bingo parlors. Nuisance properties and slumlords should also beware.

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