Alabama sheriffs are responding to the state’s order to keep establishments such as dine-in restaurants and churches closed by...refusing to do their jobs.
According to AL.com, Republican sheriffs in several Alabama counties have said they will not enforce Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer at Home” order, which she describes as “the first phase in what we hope is a multi-phase reopening of our state.”
It’s an order that is meant to allow for a safe, gradual reopening of businesses and other establishments in the state, but some law enforcement officers deem the order unfair because while beaches and some retail outlets have already been opened up to the public, other businesses like dine-in restaurants and beauty salons remain closed, and churches aren’t being allowed to hold services.
“I had to go into Walmart today to buy a gift,” Lamar County sheriff Hal Allred posted on Facebook Sunday. “It was completely packed. I see where beaches are full at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. This gradual reopening doesn’t make any sense. I have instructed your deputies not to enforce the guidelines that have been handed down. We are smart enough to use precautions. I refuse to tell y’all how to worship or make a living. This is my decision and mine alone.”
Allred is either feigning ignorance or doesn’t understand that supermarkets like Walmart are “packed” because they sell essentials like food and toiletries. In churches and sit-down restaurants, people tend to congregate in groups for long periods of time as opposed to buying what they need and moving on. But what’s even more egregious than Allred’s disregard for facts and logic is that not only is he publicly refusing to enforce the law, but he’s instructing his deputies to do the same—and he’s not the only one.
Sheriff Mark Moon of Blount County told reporters that he also has instructed his deputies “not to go into businesses and churches and stop either.”
On Tuesday, Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack announced that he too will join the “I’m not doing my job fully” train. Mack said that, under his watch, business owners and pastors won’t be fined or arrested for violating orders. He said people in violation of “Safer at Home” will merely be notified and informed that their violations “may be reviewed by other licensing or regulatory agencies.”
Some of these sheriffs work in parts of Alabama that haven’t been heavily impacted by the pandemic, but that isn’t the case for all of them. Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims said he has no intentions of “actively patrolling churches,” despite the fact that his county has seen a 33 percent rise in COVID-19 cases over the last 10 days.
“I’ve spoken to several pastors who have called me about church service, and what they wanted to do and what they can or can’t do,” Sims said. “But we’re not going to drive by and check the churches. We’re not doing any of that.
“If someone went into a church and saw they were having a service and were social distancing, I am not going to bust one of them up on a Sunday morning. I’ll trust the people of Marshall County to protect themselves.”
Mobile County has recorded 1,216 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths—the highest coronavirus numbers in the state. But Mobile’s sheriff, Sam Cochran, said that violations of state orders tend to “resolve itself” once law enforcement speaks with business owners and pastors.
At the end of the day, law enforcement officers aren’t health experts and aren’t in a position to say what’s right or wrong in regards to a global pandemic. Their refusal to enforce the law has enormous potential to do far more harm than good.