Ever since I was first sworn in as your Sheriff in December 2006, we have expressed the following motto: “We are dedicated to doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons.” Although I completely understand not everyone has agreed with everything we have done, to the best of my ability, I have attempted to stay true to that motto. There is another saying that sometimes rings very true in the law enforcement profession, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
Recently I have received some questions about my discretion on how exactly to enforce some of the Governor’s executive orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically those regarding the opening of certain businesses such as health clubs and/or gyms. I fear that my words, and therefore my intentions, have been misunderstood. The key concepts in this discussion I believe are “discretion” and “enforcement.”
When most of us think of criminal enforcement, we generally mean either receiving a citation/ticket or getting physically arrested. Our overall philosophy has been that the point of enforcement is to change behavior, not necessarily to give someone a criminal record, or have them pay a large fine, or have to spend time in jail, etc.…we want to help change behavior! We want to do the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons!
Education and encouraging good behavior is a great way to enforce the law, if not often the best way. Our D.A.R.E. programs in our schools are a great example of this. It speaks of yet another old cliché, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We had much rather educate and encourage rather than criminally enforce; it saves time, money, effort, etc. for everyone in our society as a whole. Criminal enforcement is often (not always) a final resort rather than the first option.
Now, in regards to the opening of health clubs and gyms, first of all, the courts have made it clear that they are not going to prosecute such violations. Therefore, an arrest or a citation would be a waste of valuable time for both the deputy and the gym owner. We have decided that in this instance that education and encouraging is our best option. I simply do not believe that the best thing to do is issue a citation or arrest a business owner, who is already struggling financially during these difficult and unprecedented times. I am sorry for any confusion. Remember, this is the first time we have ever dealt with a pandemic as well. I appreciate your patience while we figure this out…we truly are in this together!
Thank you again for allowing me serve as your Sheriff!