When it comes to protecting the public’s safety and enforcing the law, we expect more from sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders than their response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new covid-related limits on the size of private gatherings.
Among new orders he issued last week designed to limit the spread of the virus, the governor announced that private gatherings would be limited to 10 people.
That edict comes as covid cases are spiking all over and on the heels of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
We understand that people expect their privacy. And we understand why police would be reluctant to devote resources to breaking up someone’s Thanksgiving dinner when there are other crimes to enforce, like DWI and domestic violence.
But the response from some sheriffs in the state, including several from our area, was irresponsible and dangerous.
One sheriff who said his department wouldn’t enforce the gathering order called it unconstitutional, unenforceable and a low priority.
Another said private residences were sacrosanct and that police will always respect that.
Another wondered if police would be expected to count cars in driveways.
These are all paltry excuses for not enforcing a law they disagree with.
With regard to selective enforcement, police make judgments on how to allocate their resources and which laws to enforce every single day.
Do you think police pull over every driver who drives over 65 on the Thruway? Do they ticket every jaywalker they see? Everyone who sets off fireworks?
As for the constitutionality question, that’s for the courts to decide, not individual police agencies. Their job is to enforce the existing laws as best they can. Period.
And that whole bit about private homes being suddenly off limits? Give us a break.
So an officer sees a bunch of cars parked on the street and a bunch of teenagers having a party in the backyard, he’s not going to check it out to see if there’s underage drinking going on? Or an officer drives by a house and sees a woman with a black eye sobbing on her front steps, he’s not going to check to see if she was the victim of domestic violence? Please.
At the very least, police had an obligation as public safety officers to outwardly support the governor’s initiative on principle and emphasize social distancing.
Well, you could say that people were inquiring about whether police would be enforcing the order. And we say: Since when do police feel they owe anyone an explanation about what laws they intend to enforce and when?
Rather than speak out against the order, it would have been better for all had the sheriffs just stayed silent and let people decide for themselves whether to risk getting in trouble for hosting large gatherings. At least then, some people might have been discouraged from having them.
Gov. Cuomo’s order, whether you agree with it or not, was designed as a safety measure to slow the spread of the virus.
It’s up to police to protect us by upholding such efforts, not undermining them.