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Some sheriffs are refusing to enforce virus safety orders

‘The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights,’ stated a county sheriff in Washington state.

By Josh Israel - May 12, 2020
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Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole

Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole, a Republican in central Michigan, announced on Monday that he and his deputies will not enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. He is the latest of a growing number of law enforcement officials who say they will simply ignore the social distancing rules instituted by governors and aimed at reducing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in their states.

“With limited resources, staffing and facilities, our priority focus will be on enforcing duly passed laws for the protection of Shiawassee County citizens,” BeGole wrote in a letter posted to the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office’s official Facebook page. “I have decided, within my authority, that our office cannot and will not divert our primary resources and efforts towards enforcement of … Governor Whitmer’s executive orders.”

Other sheriffs have in recent years taken it upon themselves to announce they will not enforce rules and laws they disagree with. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes the existence of a right-wing anti-government organization called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which claims to have backing from hundreds of sheriffs and says it is “the last line of defense standing between the overreaching government and your Constitutionally guaranteed rights.” More recently, as states have enacted gun safety measures and red-flag laws to temporarily disarm those deemed a danger to themselves or others, some sheriffs have declared their communities to be “Second Amendment sanctuaries” where those laws will not be upheld.

Now, as right-wing activists mobilize to end stay-at-home orders and business closures, several sheriffs are standing in opposition to the orders of their governors.

Alabama

Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon said earlier this month he will not enforce Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer-at-Home” rules temporarily limiting large gatherings and closing nonessential businesses. “I’ve told my deputies not to go into businesses and churches and stop either,” he told a local media outlet.

Arizona

Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb both announced earlier this month that they will not enforce what they say is Gov. Doug Ducey’s “unconstitutional” stay-at-home order. “I think people want to know that we’re going to support their constitutional rights,” Lamb told the Arizona Republic. He added that he believes the state’s 300 coronavirus-related deaths at that point were “not a significant enough number to continue to ruin the economy.”

California

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said Friday that he will not enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders and that Californians “don’t need the government being our parents.” He argued that the state wants him “to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens that are, you know, trying to support a family.”

Pennsylvania

Cumberland County Sheriff Ronny Anderson and Perry County Sheriff David Hammar both announced this month that they will not enforce Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home orders. “Our Office will stand with the citizens in defense of all of our Constitutional Rights!” Hammar posted on his department’s Facebook page. “Our Office will not be enforcing any ‘order’ that violates our Constitutional Rights.”

Washington

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond and Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney announced last month that they would refuse to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, calling it a violation of the First Amendment. “As your Snohomish County Sheriff, yes I believe that preventing business owners to operate their businesses and provide for their families intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Fortney wrote on his personal campaign’s Facebook page. “As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion. We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”

Public health experts say it is essential that stay-at-home orders remain in effect as the nation continues to battle the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top epidemiologist, told Congress on Tuesday that if cities and states “prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery,” Fauci said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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