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California Sheriffs Buck Gov. Newsom’s Latest Lockdown: ‘We Will Not’ Actively Enforce It
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 980A -- Pictured in this screen grab: Gov. Gavin Newsom during an interview on April 30, 2020 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Several more California sheriffs have joined Orange County’s sheriff in bucking Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest lockdown order and refusing to actively enforce new mandates.

The sheriffs of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties put out statements over social media on Thursday and Friday following a statement from Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes pushing back against Newsom’s restrictions. Newsom announced the lockdown on Thursday and it went into effect on Saturday night.

“It has been the policy of the Sheriff’s Department to encourage responsible behavior and compliance with the Governor’s orders.  To ensure constitutional rights are not violated and to limit potential negative interactions and exposure to our deputies, we will not be responding to calls for service based solely on non-compliance with the new order or social distancing and mask guidelines,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a Thursday statement.

On Friday morning, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said in a statement, “In short, we will not be actively enforcing the curfew order. However, we will continue to respond to public safety concerns and provide law enforcement services wherever they are needed. We ask that everyone do their part to avoid situations that may contribute to the spread of COVID19.”

San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon joined the others later on Friday in refusing to send officers to respond to violations of Newsom’s lockdown order.

“Back in March, county departments collaborated and established an online reporting system for members of the public, including those choosing to remain anonymous, to report alleged violations of Public Health orders. Depending on the type and severity of the allegation(s), complaints are addressed by various county or city agencies,” McMahon said in a statement. “It is not our intent to utilize patrol personnel to respond to these allegations. Those calling to report alleged violations of Public Health orders will be referred to the county’s Joint Information Center (JIC) so the appropriate department(s) can be made aware and address the incidents on a case by case basis.”

The resistance by law enforcement to enforce the newest series of health mandates over the coronavirus kicked off with a statement on Thursday afternoon by Barnes.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has taken an education-first approach with regard to the public health orders. We are currently assessing the action by the governor,” Barnes said. “At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement.”

The California Department of Public Health issued the partial lockdown order on Thursday, banning activities deemed nonessential between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in all counties at the highest warning level of COVID cases. The new rules will last through Dec. 21, or possibly longer.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.”

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