A COVID-19 Conundrum: Enforcing Lockdown Mandates vs. Enforcing the Law

A good number of law enforcement leaders are coming to the conclusion that these "orders" are not law and that enforcing them is preventing them from enforcing actual law.

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Earlier this week we reported that the police union for New York Police Department Officers announced that cops should be taken "out of the social distancing enforcement business," while slamming New York politicians for releasing criminals from jails, discouraging proactive policing, and "leaving subways in chaos."

Patrick Lynch—the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York—said in a statement, "The cowards who run this city have given us nothing but vague guidelines and mixed messages, leaving the cops on the street corners to fend for ourselves.”

Lynch said, â€śNobody has a right to interfere with a police action. But now that the inevitable backlash has arrived, they are once again throwing us under the bus."

Lynch added that the politicians are "still watering down our laws, releasing real criminals and discouraging proactive enforcement of fare evasion and quality of life issues."

"We have hero nurses getting mugged on their way to our hospitals… As the weather heats up and the pandemic continues to unravel our social fabric, police officers should be allowed to focus on our core public safety mission. If we don’t, the city will fall apart before our eyes," Lynch said.

Also this week, we reported that Sheriff Mark Moon of the Blount County (AL) Sheriff's Office declared that he will not enforce the "stay-at-home" restrictions imposed by Governor Kay Ivey.

Governor Ivey recently mandated statewide guidelines limiting public activities during the Coronavirus pandemic but Sheriff Moon posted on social media that he has instructed his deputies to not take action against businesses or churches that violate those restrictions.

Sheriff Moon said, "It's just we have people in our county that are hurting that need to get back to work and support their families. I can’t in my heart of hearts punish somebody for trying to do what’s best for themselves their families and their congregations."

Simply Unconstitutional

Police officers in this country swear an Oath to the Constitution of the United States of America. The First Amendment of that document ensures several rights and protections against government imposition on free speech and freedom of religion.

Among those rights also protected by the First Amendment is simply the ability to gather with a group.

Some elected officials have revoked that basic right by executive fiat—violating their own oaths of office, incidentally—and said that people would be issued fines if they were found to be in public gatherings.

Most—if not all—of the "stay-at-home" orders from governors across the U.S. are unconstitutional because creating laws is a power delegated solely to legislatures. Not one of these fiats has been voted upon to properly make them enforceable by law.

Still, police agencies have been ordered to enforce these mandates—again placing police officers squarely in the middle of the fray.

Are recommendations that people stay at home and remain a fair distance apart when going to the grocery store logical? Absolutely. Should people do everything they can to protect themselves, their friends, their family, and their community from spreading COVID-19? Also, absolutely. 

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said on a recent broadcast, "The government has to recognize that the rights that are in the Constitution still exist in bad times as well as in good and it has to treat people equally."

Already, a flurry of civil cases have been filed by business owners who have been forced to shutter their doors, arguing that the government does not have the right to prevent them from putting food on their families' tables. I predict a tidal wave of Constitutional cases like this across the country in coming weeks and months.

An ever-increasing number of American citizens are beginning to figure out that these "orders" are not laws, and that their rights are being infringed.

Demonstrators gathered at California's state Capitol on Thursday for a protest of the state's weeks-long stay-at-home order. Thousands of protesters rallied outside the Washington state Capitol in April to call for an end to Governor Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order, with some holding signs that read "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me COVID-19!"

Similar protests have happened in dozens of other places. And it is the police who are forced to break up these gatherings—again, placing officers in the middle of the fray.

As mentioned above, a good number of law enforcement leaders are coming to the same conclusion that these "orders" are not law, and that enforcing them is taking them from enforcing actual law.

Sheriff Chad Bianco of the Riverside County (CA) Sheriff's Department said this week that he refuses to make criminals out of law-abiding business owners exercising their Constitutional rights and providing for their families.

We reported today that a video of Bianco pleading his case before his county's Board of Supervisors—stating he would not enforce local coronavirus lockdown protocol—went viral on social media sites earlier this week.

"It's time to get back to opening up our businesses and letting our people do what our normal business activities are," he said. "And, you know, you just can't arrest somebody for going out and exercising in public or not wearing a mask. You know, at the same time they are trying to force me to release real criminals from jail. They want me to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens that are, you know, trying to support a family. It doesn't make sense anymore."

Some Good News

The news about policing during this pandemic is not all bad.

Last week we reported that an officer with the Norton Shores (MI) Police Department is trying to keep connected with the kids in his jurisdiction despite the need for "social distancing." The Officer read the children's book "Llama Llama Red Pajama" to the kids from the front seat of his patrol unit and the agency posted it to social media.

We recently reported about Officer Jim Carbone of the North Olmsted (OH) Police Department, who partnered with "Meals on Wheels" to deliver lunch and dinner five days a week to at-risk populations during the health crisis. He makes the rounds to different assisted-living facilities and personal dwellings delivering food and much-needed companionship.

Late last month we reported on officers in New Jersey paying for hundreds of pizzas to help local residents and businesses impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.

In late March we reported on officers in Alabama who are helping long-haul truckers get meals from fast-food restaurants because the dining rooms are closed and the big rigs don't fit in the drive-through.

There are countless other acts of kindness being performed by officers across the country who are going well above and beyond their call of duty to assist people who are in need.

Final Words

As I've said before in this space, this pandemic is likely to get worse—far, far worse—before it gets better, but contrary to what many in the mainstream media would have you believe, the world is not ending. We are going to get through this—the question is, "When?"

Meanwhile, police officers are being put in a position of ever-increasing danger—not just of being diagnosed with the disease, but enforcing unfunded mandates that may be Constitutionally unjust.

Be well my friends. Stay safe.

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