Growing number of sheriffs refusing to enforce governors’ coronavirus orders

by WorldTribune Staff, May 13, 2020

Sheriffs nationwide are refusing to enforce coronavirus lockdown orders.

Virginia: Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins said that he and other law enforcement were contacted to help enforce Gov. Ralph Northam’s closures in the area that reaches into northern Virginia’s Prince William County, which is home to many federal workers, the Washington Examiner reported on May 13.

Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins: ‘We will not trample the constitutional freedoms of our citizens to enforce an edict of the governor.’

Jenkins said that he will not help enforce Northam’s order that maintains the economic shutdown.

In his executive order, Northam, a Democrat, closed all “nonessential” businesses in northern Virginia until May 28, well past the May 15 opening in other parts of the state.

In a Facebook message, Jenkins said: “Heads of law-enforcement agencies in the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District were contacted today by the district health director, Dr. Wade Kartchner. The purpose was to request assistance on enforcement of Governor Northam‘s Executive Order 61.”

“My response to that request is that we will not trample the constitutional freedoms of our citizens to enforce an edict of the governor,” he continued. “I do not speak for any of the other jurisdictions in the health district. Sheriff Scott Jenkins.”

His decision was mostly cheered in the comments. One said, “I love my sheriff!! The governor is not a dictator!! He cannot take away our constitutional freedoms just because he’s been paid to see how far he can push us.”

Virginia has been singled out by President Donald Trump for moving too slowly to reopen its economy. Northam recently said he would free up his stay-at-home restrictions, but some heavily-Democratic northern Virginia counties asked to keep the rules in place due to concerns that the coronavirus hasn’t leveled off.

In his executive order, Northam closed all “nonessential” businesses in northern Virginia until May 28, well past the May 15 opening in other parts of the state.

California: Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said on May 8 that he would not arrest anyone violating Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders because it is “time to get back opening up.”

“They want me to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens that are trying to support a family,” Bianco said. “At the same time, they are trying to force me to release real criminals from jail,” he said, as the state recently released seven sex offenders in Orange County due to concerns that they might test positive for COVID-19.

Pennsylvania: County sheriffs in Cumberland and Perry counties have posted statements on Facebook saying they will not cite businesses that operate in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order.

“Our Office will not be enforcing any ‘order’ that violates our Constitutional Rights,” said the post on the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page. “Sheriff Anderson has stated ‘I have no intentions in turning local business owners into criminals.’ ”

A similar statement was posted on the Perry County Sheriff’s Department website: “Our Office will stand with the citizens in defense of all of our Constitutional Rights! Our Office will not be enforcing any ‘order’ that violates our Constitutional Rights. David A. Hammar, Sheriff of Perry County.”

Washington: Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney says his deputies won’t stop people who break Gov. Jay Inslee’s lockdown order.

“Along with other elected Sheriffs around our state, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing an order preventing religious freedoms or constitutional rights,” Fortney wrote in a Facebook post last month.

Also in Washington, Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond issued a letter saying his department wouldn’t enforce the order issued by another Inslee, a Democrat.

“Neither I nor my office will enforce any arrests or fines regarding the operation of privately owned businesses,” Raymond wrote.

Michigan: Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole said in a statement posted on Facebook that his office would not divert resource to enforce Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders.

“The women and men of the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Michigan,” BeGole said. “Through this period of uncertainty, I continue to remind myself that we derive our authority from the consent of the governed, the great people of Michigan.”

The legality of Whitmer’s orders, he said, is a “judicial branch determination.” The state legislature, he said, “did not extend the state of emergency beyond April 30 as required by law.”

“I have decided, within my authority, that our office cannot and will not divert our primary resources and efforts toward enforcement of Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders,” BeGole said. “I want to remind everyone that the eyes of this state and even the nation are focused on our community. I’m asking you to remain calm, peaceful and considerate of all people as we wait for the courts to rule.”

Sheriffs’ offices in at least six Michigan counties have said they won’t enforce Whitmer’s orders, the Detroit News reported.

Wisconsin: Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said he would not comply with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdown order.

“We are taking the position that we will not be enforcing the Safer at Home Order going forward without further clarification and direction,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “It is frustrating and difficult to try to enforce an Order, that is now over 60 days old, that has become a moving target based on what the Governor decides to issue every other day without a warning to the Counties who are charged with enforcing it.”

Evers’ lockdown order extends through May 26.


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