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December 4, 2020
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Enforcement of Sonoma County public health order

By: Brandon Gilbert
June 5, 2020

 We have all been doing a delicate dance on the head of a pin as we watch the impact of COVID-19 on our community – both with regard to infection as well as the impact on our economy.

Unlike the fires and power outages, there seems to be no clear signal that will allow us to resume our lives. We are adjusting to new protocols as we continue to wait and slowly explore safe opportunities. As of Monday, June 1, the Superior Court will open all criminal courtrooms, bringing hundreds of involved parties to a courthouse which has been all but empty these last few months. While anxiety is high, extensive preparations have been made, and every possible tool in the toolbox is being utilized to ensure citizens have safe access to justice.

To add to the confusion and fear, our sheriff has now said he will no longer enforce the Public Health Order. Yes, it is difficult to enforce and at times may seem arbitrary. That said, the sheriff and I both know our role is not to make policy but to enforce the rules. We can play an effective role in developing policy, but at the end of the day, our primary responsibility lies with the enforcement of those rules.

Because the sheriff’s position is at odds with other law enforcement agencies and creates unnecessary inconsistent messages throughout the county, I feel compelled to remind the public that ultimately the decision to file criminal charges lies with the office of the District Attorney. I am trained in law not science and will rely upon the experts to navigate a safe path forward for us through this time. Thus, I will work with other law enforcement and community leaders to educate, and where necessary, enforce the orders issued by our Public Health Officer. 

 I am hopeful we can continue this journey in a reasonable and responsible manner, watching out for each other while putting the smallest number of people at risk.  We are tired, scared and worried, but we are resilient and we must be vigilant. Rather than arguing about rules and orders, let’s keep the focus on saving lives.