Crescent City Police Chief Ivan Minsal says a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of appeals will affect how his officers deal with homeless campers in the future.
On Sept. 9, in Martin v. City of Boise, the court ruled that the City of Boise, Idaho, violated the Eighth Amendment by imposing criminal sanctions on homeless people for sleeping outdoors on public property when no alternative shelter was available.
In an open alert letter California Police Chiefs Association Attorney James R. Touchstone wrote, “This case may have a significant impact on cities with substantial homeless populations and inadequate or insufficient homeless facilities. The impact on a potential increase in homeless presence in public areas on the one hand may vie against the costs of additional homeless shelters on the other.”
“The Ninth Circuit considered on appeal whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment barred a city from criminally prosecuting individuals for sleeping outside on public property when they had no home or other shelter available,” the letter reads.
Chief Minsal said local police will have to allow law-abiding homeless citizens to sleep on public properties but will give trespass warnings to those using private properties.
“Those folks who aren’t breaking any laws while sleeping in a park or a car will not be bothered by us,” he said.
However, he noted, there is a difference between public property and public lands, and said local officials are aware of the issue.
“It’s not just a law enforcement issue,” he said. “It’s something society in our county will have to deal with as well.” Minsal said the Sheriff’s Office will have similar issues.
“It will be challenging,” he said. “It will take some real thinking, and it may change again in the future. We just need to be ready for that change.” Minsal predicted the issue may go to the Supreme Court.
City Manager Eric Wier could not be reached as of press time.