Po­lice tak­ing soft ap­proach to stay-at-home en­force­ment

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Sa­longa

With a sweep­ing stay-at-home or­der in ef­fect across the Bay Area to halt the spread of coron­avirus, busi­nesses that stay open and peo­ple who are out and about dur­ing the next three weeks for any­thing out­side an “es­sen­tial” task or func­tion are, tech­ni­cally, sub­ject to a mis­de­meanor ci­ta­tion un­der the Cal­i­for­nia Health and Safety Code.

In re­al­ity, that is far from how the or­der will be en­forced, ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous lo­cal lawen­force­ment of­fi­cials. For starters, there are an ar­ray of al­lowances and cir­cum­stances for who can be out and why— in­clud­ing walk­ing the dog, or go­ing on a hike or bike ride, as long as there is so­cial dis­tanc­ing — it would be dif­fi­cult to quickly dis­cern a vi­o­la­tion.

“This isn’t mar­tial law. There

are so many ex­cep­tions to this quar­an­tine, to think an of­fi­cer is go­ing to proac­tively stop peo­ple who are out, and go through a myr­iad of ques­tions, is ab­so­lutely not re­al­is­tic,” said San Jose po­lice Chief Ed­die Gar­cia, whose depart­ment pa­trols the Bay Area’s largest city. “If any­one thinks some­one is go­ing to jail just based on this, that’s not hap­pen­ing. No one’s go­ing to jail over this.”

Law-en­force­ment agen­cies are gen­er­ally aligned on this point. San Fran­cisco po­lice Chief Wil­liam Scott said Mon­day that SFPD is tak­ing a “com­mon-sense”

ap­proach and that a mis­de­meanor ci­ta­tion “is an ab­so­lute last re­sort.” San Ma­teo po­lice is­sued a pub­lic bul­letin stat­ing that “ed­u­ca­tion will be our pri­mary goal, leav­ing en­force­ment as our last op­tion,” and San Ma­teo County Sher­iff’s Lt. Stephanie Joseph­son said of­fi­cers will be “in­ter­ested in talk­ing to peo­ple to gain vol­un­tary com­pli­ance.”

Po­lice agen­cies con­tacted by this news or­ga­ni­za­tion said cases will­ful dis­obe­di­ence — like a bar or restau­rant open­ing its doors, or a huge house party — are among the few clear-cut ex­am­ples in which a ci­ta­tion could be is­sued, but even then said they would be in­clined to give warn­ings and or­der a place to close.

“Here’s the way we’re look­ing at this. If there’s a red zone on a curb, we ex­pect that most good res­i­dents are not go­ing to park in the red zone. Those who do, if an of­fi­cer says to move, they will move,” Gar­cia said. “I’m hope­ful this is how it will be.”

Gar­cia added that he ex­pects the grav­ity of the coron­avirus spread — the Bay Area has over 300 con­firmed cases, in­clud­ing five deaths — will be enough in­cen­tive for res­i­dents to ju­di­cious about their pub­lic out­ings.

“The point of all this is to save lives,” he said, “so let’s all try to do our part.”

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