Two Arizona sheriffs recently announced they will not enforce what they see as an unconstitutional shutdown order imposed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb have each separately decided they will not fully enforce Ducey’s stay-at-home order.
“I will not turn otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals who are simply trying to stay afloat and put food on the table,” Schuster wrote. “It is easier for those in government who continue to receive paychecks, to recommend staying the course. Unfortunately, this is not an option for so many who are financially struggling on a daily basis.”
“I am not trying to thwart the Governor’s Executive Orders and I understand that he is in a very precarious position. It is clear to me that he is greatly concerned for the well-being of the state and is doing what he determines is best. The President of the United States ceded the responsibility of re-opening the states to the Governors. As the 15 counties in Arizona are so distinctly different, I believe the Counties should be granted this same consideration.”
Schuster said he would continue to encourage citizens in his jurisdiction to “exercise good judgment.”
“I implore everyone to make every effort to stay safe and do their part to avoid contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus,” Schuster said. “Social distancing should still be applied and those with underlying health issues should remain isolated for their own well-being.”
Sheriff Lamb has not released an official statement on his office’s stance on the coronavirus lockdown enforcement, however, he told the Arizona Republic his office had an unstated policy to not arrest anybody for violating the order. Lamb said his officers will instead talk to people about compliance but not enforce penalties, such as jail time.
“I think people want to know that we’re going to support their constitutional rights,” Lamb told the Arizona Republic. “I felt [Ducey] pushed me into a position where I needed to make our stance clear.”
As of Friday, Arizona had recorded a total of 330 deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
Lamb said, “The numbers don’t justify the actions anymore. Three hundred deaths is not a significant enough number to continue to ruin the economy.”
Schuster reportedly said his office still retains the power of the badge, to enforce lockdown measures, but that if called to a business not practicing social distancing he would instead encourage people to maintain social distancing standards.
“Think of me as a coach. We’re here to support you,” Schuster said. “We want to see businesses get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Schuster said most business owners will be happy to maintain social distancing measures in order to maintain good relations with his office and to continue to operate.
“My conscience will not allow me to arrest someone who is trying to make a living,” Schuster said. “I don’t believe it is a crime to try and make a living.”
The stances of the two Arizona sheriffs are not entirely unique. Four sheriffs in Michigan recently signaled they would not enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown orders, which they characterized as an overreach of her authority.