Racine County Sheriff says he won't enforce 'Safer at Home' order

Posted at 6:41 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 11:10:29-04

RACINE COUNTY — Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling suggests his department might no longer enforce the state's "Safer at Home" order.

The sheriff released a statement Friday afternoon, one day after Gov. Tony Evers issued an extension of the "Safer at Home" order to May 26.

In the sheriff's statement, while Schmaling recommends people continue to follow social distancing guidelines and use personal protective equipment, Schmaling writes that "state law does not have the power to supersede or suspend the Constitutional rights of American citizens."

Read Sheriff Schmaling's full statement below:

I want to take this opportunity to notify Racine County citizens of our position on the enforcement of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services public health emergency orders.

Wisconsin law gives the Governor and the Wisconsin DHS the authority to develop emergency measures and enforce rules and orders to protect the public during a health crisis. However, state law does not have the power to supersede or suspend the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

I urge the Wisconsin DHS to develop a workable plan that balances the safety of our citizens while at the same time acknowledging the fact that there is a way for business to operate even during the current health situation. I have all the confidence in Racine County business owners that they can make the appropriate adjustments in the way they operate during this difficult time to accommodate for the safety of their employees and guests.

The overreaching measures taken by State government will have dire lifetime consequences for businesses, homeowners, and families. I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens and I can not in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution.

Wisconsin law gives the authority and the responsibility for investigating and enforcing public health violations to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local health departments. We will leave the enforcement of public health orders to the health department experts.

It is important that we stay focused on our obligations and responsibilities to those areas of the law that we are charged with enforcing. We have and will continue to concentrate our resources and efforts at keeping our roads safe and protecting our citizens from criminal activity.

COVID-19 isn’t going to go away any time soon. I strongly encourage all of us to start thinking of our new “normal” way of doing business. Let’s get Racine County back on its feet again and move ahead.

I understand the seriousness of the current health situation and I urge all Racine County citizens to continue to be responsible and to follow the social distancing, mask and hygiene recommendations of the CDC and the Wisconsin DHS. Let’s continue to look out for our neighbors and those less fortunate around us. Brighter days are ahead.

Sheriff Christopher Schmaling

State Rep. Greta Neubauer responded to the sheriff's comments with the following statement:

"I am disappointed in Sheriff Schmaling’s decision to end enforcement actions of the Safer at Home order by Racine County. Wisconsin is still seeing daily increases in COVID-19 cases, and we must continue to follow the advice of public health experts as we assess how to respond to this pandemic.

The evidence shows that Safer at Home is working, and while this is incredibly difficult for our community, we must not rush this process. We must continue to ramp up our testing and our PPE production, so that we can trace new infections and protect our essential workers before ending Safer at Home in May."

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