Across the country governors, county commissioners and executives, and city and town officials have announced “lockdowns” or stay-at-home orders of dubious constitutional validity. The result of these orders is the bizarre situation in which jails are being emptied of criminals while individuals engaged in their ordinary business at appropriate social distance have been arrested for the crime of being outside their home.
One of the most high-profile examples of this inverted constitutional order happened in California, where a paddle boarder was arrested near the Malibu Pier for ignoring orders from lifeguards to get out of the water. CBS News Los Angeles reports the unidentified man spent 30 to 40 minutes paddling in the ocean waters off Malibu Beach after refusing to heed orders from L.A. County lifeguards to go ashore. LASD Harbor Patrol brought in a boat, at which point the paddleboarder voluntarily swam in and was taken into custody.
He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of disobeying a lifeguard. He was booked and released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station with orders to appear in court. It’s unclear what kind of fine he faces.
We happily stipulate that social distancing and hygiene measures are keys to stopping the spread of the Wuhan flu and that government guidelines are entirely appropriate – we called on individuals to take those measures voluntarily a long time ago.
But we question the constitutionality of these arbitrary and capricious blanket stay-at-home orders and their disastrous economic effects are obvious.
Fortunately, we are not the only ones to question these orders. Not only are some legislators questioning the level of executive-overreach involved, but some sheriffs and police departments are refusing to enforce them, citing constitutional and administrative difficulties.
The Modesto Bee reports top officials in Stanislaus County, California said they won’t likely step up enforcement to comply with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order for California residents to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus illness.
Sheriff Jeff Dirkse (pictured above) assured the public, in a Facebook post Thursday evening, that no one will be arrested locally for violating the governor’s order.
The sheriff said Friday his post was in response to an immediate public reaction he received to Newsom’s order — what does a lockdown mean? Is the National Guard coming? Are you going to arrest people? He said state agencies didn’t provide any clarifications Friday on how to enforce the order.
In Michigan, Far Left Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an equally confusing stay-at-home order prompting at least one Michigan sheriff to say he doesn’t plan on arresting anyone for violating it.
Genesee County (Michigan) Sheriff Chris Swanson said they’re working on an honor system. He said officers won’t be pulling drivers over during the pandemic unless they’re clearly indicating intoxication otherwise breaking the law.
“We’re not out there trying to make anyone’s life more difficult, and we’re certainly not there to compliment the problem by having interaction that doesn’t need to take place,” said Sheriff Swanson, according to reporting by Frank Turner and Markie Heideman of WNEM.com.
Swanson is driving home the basic message of don’t drive and stay home. He says to only leave your home if it’s a life or death situation.
“People follow the law, they don’t have to worry about interacting with their law enforcement officer,” said Swanson.
“We have got a really cool vibe on the street,” said Swanson. “Of course, there’s people making bad decisions, domestics and some other violent crimes but the call volume is significantly reduced.”
Perhaps Franklin County (Maine) Sheriff Scott Nichols said it best when he declared his department will not be “setting up a police state” to enforce Democrat Governor Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order. Nichols said he was clearly mindful of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, but plans to use discretion in enforcing the Governor’s measure.
In a written statement, reported by the MaineExaminer.com Sheriff Nichols, one of Maine’s sixteen county sheriffs said, “We will not be setting up a Police State. PERIOD.
The Sheriff’s Office will not purposefully go out and stop vehicles because they are on the road or stop and ask why people are out and about. To do so puts our officers at risk. This is not Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia where you are asked for your papers!”
His statement goes on to explain that what the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department will focus on is “rare situations where there are a lot of people overtly hanging out in public – obviously in defiance of the Governor’s order.”
Even then, Sheriff Nichols says, they will try to educate people first and “will avoid arrests unless absolutely necessary.”
Sheriff Nichols added, “The best way to approach the coming days is to treat everyone as though they have the virus. Follow strict CDC guidelines and recommendations, use masks if needed, wash your hands frequently, disinfect, wear gloves and use common sense in all situations. The longer we do NOT follow these guidelines, the longer we wait in isolation.
– – –
Photo “Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse” by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office.