City council has approved a new policy which will ensure consistency in banning patrons from city facilities and lands. Mayor John Vassilaki is in favour of the policy as long as it is used with ‘common sense’. Steve Kidd/Western News

Policy to track and punish those who abuse of City of Penticton staff

Mayor Vassilaki approves of the policy as long as it is used with ‘common sense’

A new policy approved by Penticton city council on Jan. 8 will ensure consistency in banning patrons from city facilities or lands.

“This is one of those policies you wish you didn’t have to have, but unfortunately we’ve had incidents of physical assault of staff — somebody grabbed their neck, someone threw hot coffee on another individual, we’ve had verbal abuse and damage to city property,” said Laurie Darcus, corporate services manager. “In each of these cases we have been banning people, but we don’t have a consistent process across the city.”

According to Darcus, no statistics or numbers have been collected so far in relation to how many incidents at city facilities have led to a patron being banned. This new policy will not only track these occasions but ensure the punishment fits the offence.

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“We have in the past been banning people from our facilities, but it was really inconsistent from the library to the rec centre,” said Darcus. “Based on some current case law, I just wanted to make sure that we had the correct procedures in place. This is nothing new — we have been banning people.”

“This policy provides staff with direction … a process to follow, makes sure that we are ensuring fairness in our procedures and that we apply reasonable and justifiable time limits on these bannings,” said Darcus. “There is also built into this policy an appeal process in case someone wants to question that decision.”

Darcus said this policy does not allow city staff to issue indefinite bans and if it is implemented, it will be overseen by the facility manager or supervisor. She noted that this policy can also protect other patrons from unruly people accessing facilities or lands.

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Coun. Judy Sentes agreed it is “unfortunate such a policy is required” and noted that while city staff have managed thus far without this policy, there have been challenges.

“I think it is timely and I think our staff do need that protection, that ability,” said Sentes.

“I agree with the (policy) as well, on one condition: the staff always uses common sense. That’s the approach I’d like this city to take,” said Mayor John Vassilaki. “I know we have to protect our staff to make sure no harm, whether it’s physical or verbal, becomes of any staff member. But we have to use common sense.”

According to Darcus, if a staff member or patron wanted to press charges due to an assault or abuse by another patron, that is done through a different policy. She also clarified that if a facility has legislation providing direction to banning patrons, that would take precedence over this policy.

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