OAKLAND, Calif. - Some California sheriffs are balking at enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom's coronavirus stay-at-home order.
"These closures and stay-at-home orders are flat-out ridiculous," Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said in an online post.
None have been more vocal than Bianco. He's blasting Newsom's handling of the crisis while "dining in luxury," referring to the governor's attendance at a large birthday party at the French Laundry in Napa Valley.
The sheriff said "it is extremely hypocritical" for Newsom to call on law-abiding citizens to stay home while he eats among a large group.
Even as two of his deputies died from COVID-19 back in April, Bianco said his deputies won't be going after stay-at-home violators.
"The Riverside County Sheriff's Department will not be blackmailed, bullied or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the governor's order," Bianco said.
By contrast, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which lost a deputy and civilian technician to the coronavirus, has a "COVID compliance unit" that investigates complaints. Like most Bay Area agencies, Sheriff Greg Ahern said his deputies will stress education and ask for voluntary compliance.
"My position is that we're trying to do our best to mitigate this and see what works and have people be in compliance with the rules set by our elected officials," Ahern said.
But in Southern California, many sheriffs have a different playbook.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes also said that COVID compliance was a matter of personal responsibility, not law enforcement.
In a statement, Sheriff Barnes said, "To put the onus on law enforcement to enforce these orders against law-abiding citizens who are already struggling through difficult circumstances, while at the same time criticizing law enforcement and taking away tools to do our jobs, is both contradictory and disingenuous.”
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who himself tested positive for COVID-19, said his deputies will also not enforce the order.