Code Enforcement Officers allegedly are not properly equipped to enforce “Safer at Home”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — March 23, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced the city’s “Safer at Home” order.

Since then, the city’s Code Enforcement Officers have been tasked to investigate those businesses not obeying the rules.

FOX13’s Winnie Wright spoke with one of those officers, who said they are not being given the proper equipment to do that job.

“We are going to catch the coronavirus walking around,” the code enforcement officer said. “Really, asking us to do this with the poor equipment they’re giving us is basically giving a death sentence to many of us.”

This city of Memphis Code Enforcement Officer asked that we protect his identity because he doesn’t want to lose his job.

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Especially at a time like this.

“They’re not giving us proper protection equipment,” he said. “Their idea of giving us proper protection equipment is giving us two surgical masks a day, and that’s it.”

Being a Code Enforcement Officer during the “Safer at Home” order means potentially coming face-to-face with the virus each day.

“Right now, it looks like we are going to go get a list of the nonessential businesses, look for them, walk up and tell them to shut down,” he said.

MORE: Safer at Home Order: What’s considered essential and non-essential?

Our whistleblower told us Code Enforcement Officers requested N95 respirators before the coronavirus became a pandemic, but that request was denied.

“Many of the inspectors are what you would consider high-risk; they have health problems and things of that nature, so just walking around with two of these small surgical masks that are paper-thin is not going to cut it,” he said.

He said supervisors and the administrator work from home, while officers are sent out in the field, enforcing the order.

“We were basically ignored,” he said. “They basically just said they’re not going to do it because CDC guideline said we didn’t need N95 masks, but we did this back in early March.”

MORE: TENNESSEE STAY AT HOME: What can you do and where can you go?

The whistleblower said it feels like he is expendable, doesn’t want to lose his job, but doesn’t want to lose his life.

We reached out to the city of Memphis for a response and an opportunity to interview on-camera.

Public Works Director Robert Knecht provided us the following response:

“Public Works Code Enforcement has always provided inspectors with the appropriate PPE based upon industry standards, even before COVID-19.”