Court rules Fontana must respond to alarms

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

FONTANA, Calif.--The San Bernardino Superior Court ruled May 8 that the City of Fontana Police Department must respond to alarm events, regardless of whether they are verified or not, the result of a suit filed by the Inland Empire Alarm Association (IEAA) against the City of Fontana Police Department on Sept. 24, 2007. The suit disputed the city's implementation of a verified response policy, which required alarm companies to verify the legitimacy of an activated alarm prior to dispatching the police. The policy went into effect Oct. 1, 2007.
IEAA argued that the city's verified response policy contradicted the City of Fontana Burglar Alarm Ordinance, which had been enforced since its enactment in 1968. "Essentially the court has said that the police have to respond to alarms and the court's position is that the police must comply with the municipal ordinance," said attorney Lessing Gold, of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, which represented IEAA.
"The intention of this suit was not for the industry as much as for the citizens of Fontana," said Morgan Hertel, vice president of the Command Center and a member of the IEAA. "Government agencies simply can't make policy that trumps ordinances and laws in this country and that's the basis of this lawsuit and why we won. The association won their part, but the real winners are the citizens and the public at large."
Hertel said he believes the court's ruling sets a precedent. "It means that any other city that wants to enact any kind of policy, whether it's a false alarm or a how-to-mow-your-lawn, you can't just make a policy if there's already a law that governs it," he said.
He also said that he hopes there's no bad blood between the two parties and said the association will reach out to the police department in upcoming days.
It remains unclear whether the city will be required by the court to take immediate action to resume alarm response. The city has 60 days from the entry of judgment to appeal the court's decision. "What happens now is anybody's guess," said Hertel.