Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson implied he would not strictly enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.
Swanson spoke with Detroit radio personality Charlie LeDuff on “No BS News Hour” on Friday about the statewide stay-home order. When LeDuff asked Swanson if he would enforce the orders, Swanson said the sheriff’s job is to enforce the laws “with discretion.”
“We have not raided a business, we have not shut a business down,” Swanson said. “We are not pulling people over, we are not writing tickets, and don’t expect us to do it.”
LeDuff raised the issue in regard to Karl Manke, the Owosso barber who defied the orders and opened his barber shop before the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs suspended his barbers license.
“It is dangerous for police officers to determine what is right and what is wrong, otherwise I could look at Lafayette (Street) and say, ‘You know, by the order of the sheriff, I don’t agree with this speed limit, go as fast as you want.’ I can’t do that,” Swanson said. “But what I can do is say, ‘I’m not going to park cars there and pull everyone over who is going 1 (mph) over.'”
Swanson could not immediately be reached for comment by the Free Press Saturday.
Manke’s barber shop is located in Shiawassee County, neighboring Genesee, where Sheriff Brian Begole said his department will not enforce the governor’s orders.
“I have decided, within my authority, that our office cannot and will not divert our primary resources and efforts towards enforcement of the Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders,” Begole said in a letter.
Several other Michigan sheriffs announced they will not enforce the orders, including Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy.
Swanson’s remarks come days after Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton announced he will continue to enforce violations of the orders be investigated by law enforcement. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), which includes Leyton, announced it will continue to support the orders.
“We will continue to request that violations of the Executive Orders be investigated by the police and prosecutors will review those on a case-by-case basis to determine if criminal charges are appropriate,” reads a statement from the group. “It is important for businesses and communities to remember that criminal penalties are not the only, or even primary way to enforce the orders. License sanctions or revocations by state agencies and local health departments are also possible. Likewise, the Attorney General’s Office and Michigan State Police can enforce criminal penalties for violations of the Executive Orders.”
Swanson, a registered Democrat, is up for election as Genesee County Sheriff this November. Swanson was appointed to the position after Robert Pickell announced his retirement in October 2019. Pickell held the position for more than 20 years before he retired Jan. 5, according to a report from MLive.
Meredith Spelbring is a news intern with the Detroit Free Press. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @mere0415.
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