Some Valley law officials no longer enforcing stay at home orders

Sheriff Vern Warnke's message has drawn support from many people, but also criticism from those who argue the move puts the public's safety at risk.
MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke says he will no longer enforce the state's COVID-19 orders for several reasons, including the fact that he does not believe the threat is as serious as Governor Gavin Newsom has stated

"Nothing, nothing that they've come up with has ever come to fruition, and yet we're being killed slowly through our economic areas here especially in this county, and it's like it's going on deaf ears in Sacramento," he said.


Warnke posted a letter he wrote to state officials on Facebook Saturday, which has now been shared more than 9,000 times.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux also went viral with a tweet saying he would not enforce stay at home orders and shared his support for church services with social distancing.

"It's very difficult for me to cite or even arrest a good law-abiding citizen who is for no other term violating the stay at home order when I have child abusers, elder abusers all being released from the jail system," he said. "My focus is going to be on the real criminal and not on the good citizens of this county."

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has expressed similar sentiments as her jail has seen more than 750 releases due to the state's $0 bail policy from April 9 through May 18.

"My position is that I'm not going to send deputies out to take enforcement action against people who are normally law-abiding citizens," she said.


All three sheriffs also said the tax revenue generated by re-opening local businesses will be critical to supporting public safety services as the state faces an estimated $54 billion deficit.

They've received widespread support for their stances, but many critics argue they're putting people's health at risk and increasing the chance of a secondary spike in cases.

Some are also concerned the state will withhold funding for the counties that have not enforced the rules. But the sheriffs say the bottom line is they believe decisions should be made at the local level.

We also reached out to the sheriffs of Madera, Mariposa, and Kings. They each said that they are focusing on educating businesses and residents as opposed to enforcement.
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