Letter: Officers can't round up stay-home violators

To the editor:

This letter is intended to clarify the role of your local Law enforcement agency in enforcing our Governor’s Executive Order (20-08) entitled “Directive for Hoosiers to Stay at Home.” While we respect the Governor’s order and encourage all citizens to comply, local law enforcement agencies are not making random stops of citizens who are not otherwise in evident violation of the law.

Our office has received multiple calls from citizens encouraging more vigorous enforcement. Clearly, there are those who for selfish or careless reasons conclude the Governor’s Order does not apply to them. This is wrong, no question about it. There are, of course, multiple exceptions for individuals whose businesses or professions have been classified as “essential” and therefore exempt from the Order.

My message for our community is this: However upset you may be to observe a fellow citizen violate the Order, the demands on our office are too great currently to round up violators. We don’t have room in our jail, in any event. Law enforcement currently is focused on preserving the safest possible environment for the citizens of this county. We are conscious that a time of confusion and challenge may be viewed as an opportunity by those who commit crimes. We stay focused on the detection and removal of that threat, and not so much on those who choose to risk their health (and the health of others) by ignoring our Governor’s directive. Any law enforcement agency with limited resources must choose how best to deploy those assets—and I think we make a reasonable choice. The best available enforcer of the Governor’s Order is the individual conscience of someone who considers whether to violate it.

We respectfully request that our 911 and dispatch lines stay clear for legitimate emergency calls. I remain hopeful that all citizens will adhere to the Executive Order, the CDC guidelines, and all medical advice that will help us overcome the pandemic with minimum impact and loss of life. This is a period about which history will record judgments someday—just as history has judged our forebears for their response to threats and crises of all kinds. I sincerely hope that history and all of us will look back on this as a time when we put our families and communities ahead of personal interests and met any hardship with strength, patience, and faith.

Your Law Enforcement Office is your partner in striving for those objectives.

Tom J. Kleinhelter, Dubois County Sheriff
Nathan Schmitt, Jasper Police Chief
Arthur Parks, Huntingburg Police Chief
Lloyd Froman, Ferdinand Police Chief

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