'We've got to start thinking ahead': Racine Co. sheriff says he won't enforce 'Safer at Home' order

Posted at 9:23 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 10:21:03-04

There's new pushback against Governor Tony Evers, extending his statewide shutdown until late May.

Some county leaders are taking steps to undercut the order.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling says he won't enforce it.

He shared his frustrations Friday about Governor Evers' "Safer at Home" order extension — saying he will leave enforcement of the order to the health department experts — allowing that his deputies to focus on safe roads and crime.

Some Racine County residents say they were shocked to hear their sheriff will no longer enforce the order.

"I would disagree in that he needs to enforce it," said Troy Treuber, who lives in Racine.

Linden Schulz fears the spread of coronavirus will skyrocket here if non-essential businesses fully reopen.

"It's a disgusting thought on his part, completely irresponsible," said Schulz.

"I'm sick and tired of staying at home," said Janice Kiesler. She believes the sheriff is making the right call.

"The small businesses in this city are pretty much what's left as far as employment, and it will just kill Racine if they don't allow these small businesses and restaurants to reopen," said Kiesler.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said in a statement:

"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."

"At the end of the day, we got to start thinking ahead, we cannot continue locking everybody in their homes forever," said Schmaling.

Racine Public Health Director Dottie-Kay Bowersox quickly responded with this statement:

"It is concerning and alarming that Sheriff Schmaling would be unsupportive and defiant of the extended 'Safer at Home' order. The actions come in response to the best available science and data from the CDC and local public health officials."

But Sheriff Schmaling isn't the only county leader pushing back on the governor's order.

"The biggest frustration really is the fact that we don't seem to have a plan for how things are going to move forward," said Washington County Administrator Josh Schoemann.

The Washington County Executive-elect says he's allowing golf courses to reopen immediately, admitting he may be defying Evers' order on purpose by allowing golf courses to open before April 24.

"I'm not overly concerned about that," said Schoemann. "I think that there's not a substantive difference between tomorrow and next week, Thursday or whatever it is."

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