Despite an executive order from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that makes her two-week freeze enforceable by law, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will continue its focus on educating people about the latest rules aimed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In the past, social gathering limits were “self-enforced.” Now, if caught violating this restriction, a person can be cited, fined or arrested.
DCSO spokesperson Brad O’Dell said Tuesday the previous policy from Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin will continue.
“Sheriff (John) Hanlin has previously announced that this office would take the stance of educating the public regarding the recommendations made by health officials and the Governor,” O’Dell said Tuesday. “That direction has not changed. Educating the public regarding the rules and mandates will continue.”
Brown’s executive order for a two-week freeze across Oregon began Wednesday and continues through at least Dec. 2 in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19. If the case numbers grow too quickly, they could overwhelm hospitals’ ability to treat those who are ill.
“The Oregon State Police will be working with local law enforcement to enforce the Governor’s orders, in the same way local law enforcement officers respond to noise complaints for loud parties, for example, and issue citations,” Brown spokesman Charles Boyle said Saturday.
In a conference call Monday, the Oregon State Police, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association said law enforcement agencies across Oregon will continue to educate people first and use enforcement as a last resort.
Sutherlin Police Department Cpt. Kurt Sorenson said that his department, like the other county agencies, has been serving in an educational role to this point. But if advised by state leadership, the department would enforce the rules.
“If we are going to enforce the new restrictions, then we will respond to those calls and enforce the rule,” Sorenson said. “My hopes are that people will behave like responsible citizens and we don’t have to take enforcement action.”
Until it received updated guidance from state law enforcement associations, Roseburg Police Department had no plans to change its response, said spokesperson Jeff Eichenbusch by email early Tuesday.
“We are waiting on OACP and the Sheriff’s Association for direction,” Roseburg Police Department spokesman Jeff Eichenbusch said Tuesday via email, “so there are no planned changes in our response at this time.”
Winston Police Department and Myrtle Creek Police Department did not return requests for comment.
Sorenson asked residents wishing to report a violation not to call 911, but rather their local agency’s non-emergency line or necessary state agency.
“Hopefully, responsible citizens will not be calling 911 because of extra cars in their neighbor’s driveway. 911 is for emergencies,” Sorenson said Monday via email. “The pandemic, and how we attempt to control it, are very serious, but please don’t call 911 if you suspect someone is not following the new restrictions.”
Instead, residents who wish to report business or workplace violations are encouraged to contact Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Violations at restaurants and bars should be reported to OSHA or the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
In a press conference last week, the governor said violating these rules will be a class “C” misdemeanor, which can be punishable by citations, fines or even arrest.