Peninsula sheriffs support association’s stay-at-home statement

Both Jefferson and Clallam county sheriffs said they agree with a statement issued by the Washington State Sheriffs’ Association supporting the governor’s actions regarding COVID-19.

“We need to trust, engage and empower Washingtonians to continue health safety measures while adjustments to restrictions are considered and implemented,” the statement read.

“The governor has issued the order under his authority in this crisis. … We are committed to educate, engage and, in extreme situations where public safety and health are at risk, use our discretion in considering the appropriate level of enforcement.

“It is what we have always done, and will continue to do, during this crisis.”

Sheriff Joe Nole of Jefferson County said his office is “right in line with the stance of the Washington State Sheriffs’ Association.”

Sheriff Bill Benedict of Clallam County said he supports the statement from the sheriffs’ association but that he understands some of the frustrations of other sheriffs.

Sheriff J.D. Raymond of Franklin County and Sheriff Adam Fortney of Snohomish County have said that the stay-home order violates constitutional rights.

Said Benedict: “The governor has reached out to sheriffs asking that sheriffs and law enforcement support his [emergency] proclamation, and I do, but the office of the sheriff as well as the police chiefs in Clallam County and throughout the state of Washington, would have a very difficult time actually enforcing his proclamation from a legal and criminal perspective.”

Benedict provided an example of a business being open that doesn’t fall under the category of an “essential business” and asked the question of by what authority he would have as a county sheriff to close the business down, what law would he cite in order to do so?

The RCW under which Inslee proclaimed his order has a provision for a violator to be cited with a gross misdemeanor, but the governor’s office has said the first step of law enforcement is to educate. Local law enforcement officials have said they are focused on educating rather than citing anyone.