Local Sheriffs Are Pushing Back on Some of the Lockdown’s Harsher Measures

The elected law enforcement officials aren't taking kindly to Democratic governors' unilateral edicts on public health.

The limits of the government’s power to follow through with some of its public-health orders are being tested as states impose new restrictions on private gatherings because of COVID-19.

“You have due process,” said Sheriff Richard Giardino, of Fulton County, N.Y. “We can’t just go into someone’s home without a search warrant, their consent or an emergency.”

Giardino, a Republican and former county judge, drew national attention when he spearheaded a group of several elected upstate sheriffs who publicly refused to enforce restrictions that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed on private gatherings ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Along with their counterparts in California who oppose aspects of a recent order from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, the sheriffs forced state officials to ask how much authority they have to compel individual citizens to follow public-health guidelines.

“I took [the position] that an executive order in New York without a sanction or a punishment to go into somebody’s house or count how many people is unenforceable because it is not a law,” Giardino said of Cuomo’s order, which set a 10-person limit on gatherings in people’s homes.

He also pointed to the widespread protests and debate about the role of police that occurred over the summer.

“There’s been a message preached by many elected officials that police officers get up in the morning to shoot somebody, that police officers are all bad,” said Giardino, “and then they turn around and they want police officers to enforce these ordinances in your home.”

Cuomo initially called Giardino and the other sheriffs arrogant. “You have to enforce the law or don’t call yourself a law enforcement official,” a dispatch from Albany quoted him as saying.

By the end of the month, however, the governor had changed his tone, per an AP report.

“Government is not capable of enforcing what you do in your home,” Cuomo said. “It’s about people being smart.”

Articles by: Gideon Bradshaw

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