Gadsden's police chief and other city leaders say a new noise ordinance will help citizens and police officers alike. But at least one city council member disagrees.
Tuesday, the Gadsden City Council voted 6-1 in favor of the ordinance, which had been on the agenda as a "first reading." Council member Ben Reed asked to suspend the rules to vote on it Tuesday, and the council agreed to do so.
The old noise ordinance required officers to use a decibel meter to scientifically measure sound to see if it was too loud. The resident then had to swear out a warrant before police could take action.
The new ordinance, however, throws out the decibel meter requirement and allows officers to use the "reasonable man" standard. If the noise can be heard 50 feet away from the offender's property and the officer agrees it's a nuisance, he can write a citation on the scene. Residents are no longer required to swear out warrants.
Police Chief John Crane wrote the ordinance, and says it will make life easier not only for his officers but also residents filing complaints.
He also says it addressed things like televisions, stereos, parties, bad car mufflers and even barking dogs. The old ordinance required the "barking dog" offense to go on continuously for at least 10 minutes. The new ordinance says the officer doesn't have to wait, but it does take into account things like trespassers, for instance. Dogs who bark at trespassers will not get their masters in trouble.
Council member Robert Avery voted against the ordinance, saying it gives police officers too much power and too much of a burden. He says "99 percent" of the officers would likely enforce the law fairly, "but it's that other one percent I'm worried about."
Crane says he'll train his officers on the new ordinance, which will likely take effect within two weeks.
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