The Blaine Police Department (BPD) and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) are urging local residents to voluntarily comply with governor Jay Inslee’s stay-home order to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The governor’s order allows for people to be out of their homes to perform essential tasks, including exercise and other exceptions,” explained BPD sergeant Michael Munden. “It also asks them to maintain a safe distance from others while doing so. Because of this, the Blaine Police Department is not stopping or questioning individual citizens in regards to the order.”
Sergeant Munden continued: “Should we observe a large group congregating, we will educate the group about the order, advise them of the dangers associated with gathering in groups and ask them to disperse. If the group failed to disperse, we would act within the confines of the law which could result in a citation or an arrest if necessary. As of [March 27], we have not yet had to face this scenario.”
Police chief Donnell Tanksley further emphasized: “Any time of arrest would be an absolute last resort after many attempts to educate. We do not expect this to happen at all.”
In addition to continuing to patrol neighborhoods, BPD officers are also performing “courtesy checks” of local businesses. Specifically, BPD officers are checking the perimeters of local businesses to ensure they are secure. The goal of the initiative, led by sergeant Brent Greene, is to provide peace of mind to business owners.
“The people who own many of these businesses are being forced to stay at home, as their livelihood is not considered ‘essential,’” sergeant Munden explained. “Criminals, on the other hand, rarely abide by the rules. It is likely that some might attempt to take advantage of this situation and see some of these closed businesses as easy targets.”
At each business they check, BPD officers will leave a notice stating the date and time the business was visited and whether it was found to be secure or unsecure. The notice will also state the name and badge number of the officer who performed the check.
In Birch Bay, WCSO was also encouraging voluntary compliance with the governor’s order. Sheriff Bill Elfo said: “Consistent with the governor’s statement and orders, the direction we are providing deputies is to emphasize public education during current operational periods and seek voluntary compliance.”
In further comments, WCSO chief deputy Kevin Hester said that a deputy stopping and speaking with someone does not generate a call or a data point to collect. “We stop and talk with people all the time,” he said. “I can tell you that no one has been arrested or cited or anything like that. Our primary role is to help educate people about how to comply with orders to stay at home. We are not being asked to detain, arrest, ticket or establish checkpoints for compliance. Our primary role is one of education: educating residents on how to keep themselves safe, how to keep their families safe and most importantly, to keep the rest of the community safe, especially vulnerable populations.”
The governor’s stay-home order went into effect on March 23 and will last for at least two weeks. The order may be viewed in its entirety at governor.wa.gov.