Is CA Sheriff right not to enforce stay-at-home orders?


Fact Box

  • As of December 7, there have been 1.4 million coronavirus cases in California, with 19,934 reported deaths.
  • After the surge in travel from Thanksgiving, Dr. Fauci has warned of a coronavirus spike in the next couple weeks. 
  • As of Saturday, December 5, Governor Newsom set restrictions for California residents in order to maintain hospital capacity with rising covid cases. “Outdoor dining will be shuttered, playgrounds roped off, and hair salons closed” for about three weeks. 
  • CA sheriffs from Fresno, Merced, Madera, Visalia, and Kings stated that they will not be enforcing the new covid curfew. Sheriffs mention more important tasks “taking guns from gangs, stopping narcotic trafficking, and saving children from predators” rather than enforcing curfew.

Elizabeth (Yes)

The sheriffs of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and San Bernardino, and other counties, including Sacramento County, where CA's state capitol is located, are all right to say their departments will not enforce the new lockdown requirements from Governor Newsom. There are many reasons law enforcement should not be tasked with this, not least of which being they are still obligated to handle all their regular responsibilities.

Saying nothing of the 'lockdown fatigue' Californians and much of the country is experiencing, it is becoming increasingly impossible for businesses to comply given the frequency with which requirements change. Additionally, there is rising frustration among the population with inconsistencies, given that politicians and bureaucrats themselves are not complying with their decrees and are haphazardly imposing directives.

The vast majority of people are both smart and careful, and in a free country where liberty was once prized, they should be trusted to act as such. Sheriff Barnes of Orange County is correct in saying this is a matter of personal responsibility. Of course, there are always those who play dumb or simply don't care, and it’s true any recklessness may dramatically affect others. This isn't fair to those affected, but no amount of posturing from politicians nor threat of arrest will change some people.

We as a society must find ways to coexist with the virus, rather than depending on isolation and selective business shutdowns to overcome it. Businesses, students, and general mental health are being decimated by continuing lockdowns, as evidenced by the increasing crime, substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence numbers. These are the areas where law enforcement can and must act, not in petty oversight of peoples' autonomy.

Andrew (No)

A key to law enforcement is the professionals' ability to put aside their personal beliefs and work according to the letter of the law. Unfortunately, by claiming he will not enforce Governor Newsom's stay-at-home order, Sheriff Alex Villanueva has proven that he lacks this essential quality. Those in law enforcement lack the right to decide which laws and orders they will enforce and which they will ignore. It is improper for the sheriff to announce he will not enforce the governor's order. Those in law enforcement, Sheriff Villanueva included, must enforce the laws and orders as written because they have been put in place by elected officials, guided by experts.

One of Sheriff Villanueva's justifications for failing to enforce the governor's mandate is that he wants 'to stay away from businesses that are trying to comply the best they can.' Unfortunately, just merely 'doing our best' or 'doing what we can' isn't good enough when thousands of people are dying every day. The governor has decided that these drastic steps must be taken to save lives, and it is Sheriff Villanueva's duty to enforce them. 

The other justification of wanting to focus on super spreader events also rings false; virtually any sized gathering can become a super spreader event based on where individuals go after the event. As Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, described, groups as few as ten people can become super spreaders if one person is infected. Rather than using this as a justification for inaction, Sheriff Villanueva should be going after all individuals breaking this order with enthusiasm.

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