ALBANY, OR (KPTV) - Several sheriff's departments in Oregon say they're not going to enforce COVID-19 restrictions or make arrests during the COVID-19 'freeze' that Gov. Kate Brown put in place this week. This comes after Brown gave police the discretion to enforce these restrictions.
FOX 12 on Friday spoke with people living in Albany and Linn County Sheriff Jim Yon about the issue. Yon said his department is taking the same approach it did in the spring with a focus on education, not on criminal enforcement.
As the state is under a list of COVID-19 restriction, the sheriff says he wants to be clear about law enforcement's role in all of this.
"My office isn't here to count people in people's houses," Yon said. "For me to go into someone's house, I would need a search warrant."
Yon said his office will not be enforcing COVID-19 restrictions at a criminal level.
"Of course we know the ramifications of COVID-19," Yon said. "We want people to be safe, we want people to follow the rules. I'm just drawing the line at making a physical arrest over someone having turkey dinner and there's three households there with seven people. I just draw the line there."
Yon says his office will focus on education.
"We're going to evaluate the call," Yon said. "If it's just so and so was in, you know, Hoy's Hardware store without a mask, we're probably not going to do anything with that. But if it's we get a call of residents and they're having a party. We'll make contact with them, we'll talk about social distancing, wearing a mask all those important things that truly almost all Oregonians are doing anyways."
But Yon says it is ultimately the individual's decision on whether they adhere to these health and safety measures.
"To me, it's what is our role in our community?" Yon said. "We are not the Gestapo, that's not what we're about."
People in Albany have mixed views on the sheriff's stance on the issue.
"I'm okay with them not arresting people that gather at their homes because I do feel that that is an invasive overly reaching aspect of it," Renee Svendsen said. "But I do believe that where there are people gathered socially outside of the home, whether that be in church or in the park or wherever, I think that we do need to enforce."
The Marion County Sheriff's Office also put out a statement, saying it recognizes it cannot arrest or enforce "our way out of the pandemic".
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