Letter to the Editor: Sheriff addresses enforcement of restriction orders
April 30, 2020
Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor was received too late for this week’s print edition. However, as it pertains to the ongoing pandemic and contains important information from our sheriff, we have opted to print it here on our website ahead of next week’s issue.
I would like to address some of the questions I have received over the last several days regarding the constitutionality and enforcement of restriction orders. I did address the topic of attending religious services in the Sundance Times April 30, 2020 publication.
The Crook County Sheriff’s Office will not be citing, arresting or enforcing any such restrictions that would inhibit the public from attending religious services. With that said, there have not been any orders restricting such activity.
The confusion lies with the interpretation of how many people can gather during such services. I believe there is separation of church and state and it shall not be infringed upon. A church can take the necessary safety precautions to ensure the safety of their congregation to continue with religious activities.
As to the constitutionality of the restriction orders and the Crook County Sheriff’s Office enforcing those orders; first and foremost, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and enforce the laws of Wyoming. The sheriff does not write laws, the sheriff enforces the law.
I do not have the pleasure of deciding which laws are constitutional for the most part, that is for the courts to decide. The representatives and senators that are elected by the people of Wyoming write and pass laws.
If we are not satisfied with the laws put in place, we look to them to represent us in Cheyenne and to change those laws. I, however, would not enforce any law that I view as unconstitutional.
As of now, Wyoming Statutes 35-4-101 through 35-4-109 give the statutory authority to the Wyoming Department of Health to impose rules and regulations for the management of communicable diseases. Those department heads are appointed by our elected governor. The statement that these officers are “not elected” gives way to the argument that we would need to elect every department head under the governor, which is outlandish.
To address the second part of the question as to whether the Crook County Sheriff’s Office will be enforcing Wyoming Statutes and restriction orders, the answer is, yes, we will. There will be a commonsense approach to enforcing these orders and laws.
We will deal with each individual situation and apply common sense in assessing the apparent violation, as we have throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic. There have been no citations or arrests concerning the COVID-19 restrictions in Crook County.
As businesses begin to reopen and life gets back to a new normal, I encourage citizens to remain diligent in their personal protective measures and practices that they have become accustomed to in the last couple of months. COVID-19 is still out there, and it would not take much to overwhelm the limited resources of Crook County.
This has been an extremely stressful time for all of us. Opening things up will relieve some of that stress but it will also be more stressful on those individuals that are more vulnerable. Let us be respectful and be good neighbors to our fellow citizens. Just because you have a constitutional right, that right does not trump everyone else’s constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The businesses and citizens of Crook County have been exceedingly understanding and cooperative through this unprecedented time in our lives. The Crook County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank everyone for their cooperation and patience going through this. We are privileged and blessed to serve the citizens of Crook County.
Crook County Sheriff