Law Enforcement Agencies Say They Won’t Enforce Governor’s New Curfew

Over a dozen law enforcement agencies have said they will not enforce limited stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Gavin Newsom last week.

Newsom has announced a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for all counties in the purple tier, which comprises more than 90% of the state’s population. The announcement followed a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“At this time, due to the need to have deputies available or emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in response. Barnes said the county has always taken an “education-first approach” to the pandemic.   

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva struck a similar tone. 

“Since the first Stay at Home Order was issued in March of this year, we have focused on education and voluntary compliance, with criminal enforcement measures being an extreme last resort,” he said. “We trust in the community and rely on people to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate.”

Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims said her county is “not going to make criminals out of normally law-abiding citizens.”

The sheriffs of Riverside, Merced, Tulare, Kings, Sacramento, Stanislaus, Butte, Solano, and El Dorado counties made similar statements. Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Buschow said there was no legal basis for the Governor’s order. 

Local police departments have also vowed a hands-off approach. Officers in Sacramento, Stockton, Ceres, Dixon, Roseville and Folsom will be relying on education and voluntary compliance. Most have said they do not have the resources to respond to calls about curfew-breaking or other non-emergency public health matters.

Law enforcement has been reticent to enforce public health restrictions since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor's recent French Laundry debacle and the Hawaiian junket for California lawmakers have provided additional fodder for critics of the state’s public health measures. Anti-science groups have already organized gatherings to deliberately break the new restrictions in a show of defiance. On Saturday night, dozens of activists flocked to the Huntington Beach pier after curfew in a show of defiance.

It’s going to be a long winter.


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