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Enforcing COVID-19 ‘stay-at-home’ orders in the Quad Cities
At this time, police have no intention to stop drivers, check status

Prescott Valley Police Department Officer Omar Hernandez works from his patrol vehicle. (PVPD/Courtesy)

Prescott Valley Police Department Officer Omar Hernandez works from his patrol vehicle. (PVPD/Courtesy)

Law enforcement agencies in the Quad Cities appear to be on the same page when it comes to enforcing the emergency proclamations and orders issued by state and local officials regarding COVID-19: They’ll do it, but only if they feel the violators are acting in complete disregard to public safety.

Arizona law permits officers, deputies, troopers and the like to issue class 1 misdemeanor citations to people who knowingly fail or refuse to obey such orders.

Those found guilty can face up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich confirmed this in a legal opinion released on March 31, but added a word of caution for those called upon to enforce those orders.

“In exercising such authority, however, law enforcement officials must continue to be mindful of constitutional rights and should execute their duties in a manner that promotes justice,” he wrote.

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Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office vehicles parked at its fleet management facility along Commerce Dr. in Prescott. (Max Efrein/Courier)

With this in mind, local police departments and the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) have directed their personnel to initially take an “educate and inform” approach to violations before criminally charging anyone.

“Our strongest encouragement is for cooperation and voluntary compliance,” said Lt. Jon Brambila, a public information officer with the Prescott Police Department. “It’s going to be very, very extreme situations that are going to require law enforcement intervention in the way of charging someone with that misdemeanor.”

But no local authorities were willing to provide an idea of what an “extreme situation” might look like.

“We cannot anticipate the nuance of every situation, so it is difficult to predict a circumstance that would necessitate a citation,” said Dwight D’Evelyn, a public information officer with the YCSO.

As written in the governor’s stay-at-home order, “No person shall be required to provide documentation of proof of their activities to justify their activities under this order.”

Therefore, law enforcement have no intention of stopping people or setting up checkpoints at this time to make sure they are performing essential activities, officials said.

If non-essential businesses are found operating or there are large gatherings of people in the community, these concerns will first be addressed by each municipality’s code enforcement/compliance division or the Yavapai County Health Department, officials said.

For the county, D’Evelyn said the health department will start each case by seeking compliance over the phone.

“Further enforcement will depend on the circumstances based on input from the health department and County Attorney,” he said.

Municipalities are taking the same approach.

“Upon complaint, the City’s Code Compliance officials will call a business, inform them of the complaint and explain how they are not in compliance with the Governor’s order,” said Joh Heiney, the community outreach manager for the City of Prescott. “A follow up call may be required, and if the business continues to operate the Prescott Police Department will be notified to determine if enforcement action is appropriate and necessary to resolve the issue.”

Overall, police have expressed they’re hopeful that everyone will be understanding and work together to overcome this crisis with as little confrontation as possible.

“Our community has never experienced what we are facing today,” said Jerry Ferguson, a public information officer with the Prescott Valley Police Department. “Self-discipline is required in taking care of ourselves and our community. Encouraging others to do the same will go a long way in improving this situation for all.”

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.

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