Delaware County law enforcement say they are using their own discretion when it comes to enforcing the governor’s stay-at-home order.
On Sunday, Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order asking Ohioans to stay home and not travel unless absolutely necessary.
City of Delaware Police Capt. Adam Moore said Tuesday police officers don’t anticipate having to enforce the order, but they have the authority to issue summons if they need to.
“We anticipate the vast majority of individuals will voluntarily comply with the director of health’s orders, and we do not foresee the need for enforcement,” Moore said. “But should it be required, Ohio Revised Code section 3701.56 gives police officers, sheriffs, constables, and others the authority to enforce orders/rules established by the Ohio Director of Health. The actual violation is written under section 3701.352 and is a misdemeanor of the second degree.”
Moore said officers will use their own judgment when deciding if a person is willfully violating the order.
“As we do daily, under normal conditions, officers will use their discretion,” Moore said. “Generally, we will be promoting voluntary compliance as the initial approach to violations of the director’s order, followed by a summons to court, and arrest as a last resort.”
Moore said police will be using their judgment on a case-by-case basis when dealing with situations like a person driving on an expired license because the Board of Motor Vehicles is currently closed due to the pandemic.
“Violations of law remain violations of law. Our officers will continue to handle these as they always do, with discretion based on the totality of circumstances,” Moore said. “We always strive for voluntary compliance but will continue to issue summons or make arrests as appropriate, based on the individual facts of each situation.”
Moore added police officers are also taking precautions by carrying appropriate sanitizing cleaners and personal protection equipment.
Likewise, Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin said Wednesday deputies are not stopping people just for being out during the order.
“We have not stopped anybody out of suspicion that they were violating the health director’s recommendation order,” Martin said. “Our goal is to educate the community and request compliance. Make sure they understand the goal of this is to mitigate the spread of the virus. Period. The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is not stopping people and questioning them, period.”
Martin said it’s been “business as usual” for the office, and he added deputies are taking low level complaints over the phone now and are limiting face-to-face meetings as much as possible. He said deputies and corrections officers at the Delaware County Jail are “essential services” but the office has moved some support staff and administrators to work from home or work restricted hours to reduce the number of people in the office at one time.
Martin said the office has also worked with local attorneys, prosecutors, and judges to arrange for the release of some inmates at the jail.
“We have reduced a percentage of our jail population, specifically non-violent offenders only in anticipation that if we have to quarantine an inmate, we’ll have vacant space where we can quarantine and treat as necessary,” Martin said.
He said eight days ago the jail had a population of about 190. Currently, the jail is holding about 135 inmates.
“I want to stress objective is to keep those charged with violent offenses in jail,” Martin said. “We’re working with the court and prosecutor’s office temporarily to reduce the population of those who are serving limited sentences or in pretrial cases. We are restricting visitors and programming through the jail. We’re still allowing opportunities for inmates to confer with clergy or attorney. We’ve introduced some additional technology into the jail to allow for additional hearings and meetings with judges and attorneys.”
Martin added visitors can still use the online services to contact inmates at the jail, and he praised the cooperation of everyone involved in the process.
“The local bar (association) was very cooperative, and local prosecutors and judges have been on the same page, which is very encouraging,” Martin said.
The amount of calls placed to the sheriff’s office has also decreased over the past few weeks, he added, and deputies are using the extra time gained to respond to more serious offenses faster and to maintain better visibility in the county.
“We have encouraged heightened visibility around our big box stores to assure people we are out and present,” Martin said. “We have been very pleased with the cooperation of our community and impressed with how people are working together in Delaware County. (I’m) very pleased with how the community has responded. We’re thankful for that.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.