PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A riot during spring break this year is leading to changes in Bay County, Panama City Beach and now in Panama City.
Panama City Commissioners approved an emergency declarations and nuisances ordinance on Tuesday that would give police the authority to immediately address events taking place.
Officials said they need the new law so they can protect people and businesses and they believe the changes will allow them to react faster to dangerous problems.
“I think this ordinance is going to help. We give more power to the chief, the city manager, and myself where something can be established as an emergency quicker, sooner and put a fire out before it really gets stoked,” Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said.
Police already have the authority under the state statute but if they apply it under the state statute it impacts large sections of the city. For example, setting curfews and stopping alcohol sales.
Instead, the new law allows for a surgical approach to problems.
“We didn’t want to have to pull the trigger that hard in these cases when we could deal directly with the single violator. So the city ordinance allows us to deal with that single violator and not affect the surrounding community, businesses, and residences,” Panama City Police Chief Mark Smith.
This ordinance gives them authority to clear parking lots and close down businesses for the night if crowds get out of hand.
“Getting this ordinance passed provides us with an additional tool to be able to address these issues that came up during spring break where we saw the large groups of people congregating in small areas that were making it unsafe conditions,” Smith said.
Chief Smith said being in alignment with the county and Panama City Beach’s ordinances will give them the structure they need during emergency situations.