Oregon Stay at Home Order
1 Although violating Oregon’s “Stay Home” order issued by Gov. Kate Brown is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250 or both, Sheriff John Gautney of Crook County, Oregon as well as others such as Sheriff Adam Fortney of Snohomish County, Washington have joined a growing trend of sheriffs across the country refusing to enforce coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
3 J.D. Raymond, Washington’s Franklin County Sheriff, also wrote that neither he nor his office would enforce any arrests or fines regarding privately owned businesses’ operation.
4 Some sheriffs across the U.S. refer to the constitutional sheriff movement as a reason to refuse enforcing their governors’ stay at home orders.
5The idea behind the constitutional sheriff movement is that a sheriff is not beholden to federal authorities. The constitutional sheriff movement has connections to the 1960s and ‘70s “Posse Comitatus” movement, partly reintroduced in the 1990s by James Wickstrom who changed the “Posse Comitatus” into a white supremacist group.
6 Posse Comitatus fell from prominence after several cases in which members fired on federal law enforcement officials. This includes the 1983 murder of two U.S. marshals in North Dakota.
7 Not all sheriffs who are refusing to enforce the order are part of the constitutional sheriff movement. Other sheriffs may simply be relying on the authority of the elected county sheriff. Former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna explained in an NPR KUOW article that no legal avenue likely exists to punish sheriffs for not enforcing the order because local sheriffs often make decisions on how to implement the law. It’s part of their job.
8 Some Oregonians are supporting the sheriffs for a variety of reasons. They want to help local businesses economically or they’re saying the order is potentially increasing violence in families who don’t get along. Beginning in March, after these orders, many cities around the country did report increasing levels of domestic violence, raising concerns about families’ safety as they isolate at home.
10 According to NBC News, out of the 22 law enforcement agencies around the U.S. that responded to their request for data on domestic violence calls, 18 departments reported a rise of calls in March. Houston police received around 300 more domestic violence calls in March than in February, roughly a 20 percent increase.