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West Valley City Journal

West Valley City receives body armor for code enforcement officers

May 30, 2022 06:21PM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

Since 1985, 27 municipal code enforcement officers around the U.S. have died while on the job.

Seventeen of those deaths have been the result of murder. A West Valley City officer was one of those victims.

Jill Robinson was shot to death by Kevin Billings in August 2018 while she made a follow-up visit to his home to address code violations. Billings, who cited years of harassment as the reason for shooting Robinson and setting her city truck and a neighbor’s house on fire, later pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In April, the West Valley City Code Enforcement Division received a donation that will hopefully prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The Code Enforcement Officer Safety Foundation has given the division 10 body armor vests for its officers, who enforce city ordinances regarding debris, trash, junk, hazardous materials, and other unsightly, unhealthy and unsafe conditions on private property. They can also ensure compliance with zoning, building permit and business license requirements.

Tim Sun, vice president of the nonprofit foundation and a code enforcement officer in Southern California, said he was particularly affected by the murder of Robinson and those before her. “I was like ‘How come nobody’s doing anything, how come nobody’s issuing protective equipment, why are things like this and nobody cares?’” Sun said.

The exterior vests are valued at $700 each. The CEOSF receives funds for the equipment from corporate, nonprofit and individual sponsors and donors.

West Valley City Community Preservation Director Layne Morris said protective gear is very much needed for what is becoming an increasingly unpredictable work environment. “Our officers have historically purchased their own body armor, so it’s nice to have somebody think of them that way.” Morris said the CEOSF reached out to the city to gauge its interest in receiving vests. A poll of officers showed they would welcome the donation. “They all thought it’s probably a good idea if we had some additional protection,” he said.

While most code enforcement cases are resolved without incident, Morris said that about 4% require a court order that allows officers to enter a property to take action on violations. Property owners are not always happy to see them. “It just makes sense for our code guys at that point to be wearing armor,” Morris said.

Sun said the most common protection for code enforcers is a can of pepper spray, no match for an angry homeowner intent on stopping what he or she sees as government intrusion on their property and way of life. “Most officers only have a cell phone, a polo shirt, a business card, and a smile,” he said. “What good is a phone going to do when someone sticks a gun in your face.”  

“We want to protect our brothers and sisters in code enforcement,” Sun sa