Wisconsin’s Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling indicated in a statement on Friday he will not enforce the state’s stay-at-home order, which Gov. Tony Evers (D) extended through May 26.
The sheriff provided an update to Racine County citizens on Friday, outlining his position on the enforcement of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ (DHS) public health emergency order.
While Wisconsin law gives both the governor and Wisconsin DHS “the authority to develop emergency measures and enforce rules and order to protect the public during a health crisis,” Schmaling emphasized that state law “does not have the power to supersede or suspend the Constitutional rights of American citizens.”
He urged the state’s DHS to “develop a workable plan that balances the safety of our citizens while at the same time acknowledging the fact that there is a way for business to operate even during the current health situation.”
“I have all the confidence in Racine County business owners that they can make the appropriate adjustments in the way they operate during this difficult time to accommodate for the safety of their employees and guests,” he wrote, warning that the “overreaching measures taken by State government will have dire lifetime consequences for businesses, homeowners, and families.”
“I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens and I can not in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution,” he said.
Wisconsin law gives the authority and the responsibility for investigating and enforcing public health violations to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local health departments. We will leave the enforcement of public health orders to the health department experts.
It is important that we stay focused on our obligations and responsibilities to those areas of the law that we are charged with enforcing. We have and will continue to concentrate our resources and efforts at keeping our roads safe and protecting our citizens from criminal activity.
COVID-19 isn’t going to go away any time soon. I strongly encourage all of us to start thinking of our new “normal” way of doing business. Let’s get Racine County back on its feet again and move ahead.
Schmaling reiterated that he understands the “seriousness” of the public health crisis and urged citizens to practice social distancing and follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
“Let’s continue to look out for our neighbors and those less fortunate around us,” he said. “Brighter days are ahead”:
This week, four Michigan sheriffs penned a similar letter, stating they would also refrain from fully enforcing the stringent stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) — an order that even bars neighbors from visiting each other.
“Each of us took an oath to uphold and defend the Michigan Constitution, as well as the US Constitution, and to ensure that your God given rights are not violated,” the sheriffs wrote. “We believe that we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”