Police finding balance in enforcing stay-at-home order

Authorities are walking a fine line enforcing the governor’s stay-at-home order. On the one hand, they want the public to know that they are not aggressively enforcing the order against those trying to carry on their necessary business. But they also don’t want that to be a free pass for non-essential companies to reopen or for residents to move about unnecessarily.

Lt. Matt Harris with the Columbus Police Department talks about their approach, saying that police have said they will not be out specifically ticketing or arresting those in violation.

But at least one local business took that to mean the order was not being enforced and decided to reopen, Harris said. Violations of the order can be treated as a Class B misdemeanor he said.

Violations of an emergency order can be treated as a Class B misdemeanor he said. But ideally, everyone would comply voluntarily.

He encouraged anyone with questions to contact authorities directly, rather than relying on social media or rumors for information.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, spokesman for the Versailles State Police Post, posted a list of guidelines that State Troopers are following in this crisis.

  • Stay-at-Home Executive Order issued by Gov. Holcomb went into effect at 11:59 pm on 3-24-20 and will last until 11:59 pm on 4-6-20, unless extended
  • Anyone conducting essential travel will not be in violation of the order (Find what qualifies as essential travel at coronavirus.in.gov where the order and FAQ page associated with it can be viewed)
  • If you work as an employee of an essential business (lists of essential businesses can be found in the executive order or FAQ page) you are allowed to travel to and from work
  • Indiana residents are NOT required to have a work permit or other documentation to show they are traveling to or from work and are in compliance with the order. Simply tell the officer your reason for travel if you are asked.
  • Donating blood in an essential function. There is a shortage of blood being donated due to the virus. So, please donate if you are healthy, bored, and want to get out of your house to help make a difference. Contact the American Red Cross to find a donation site near you.
  • It is a Class B Misdemeanor to violate this order
  • Police will NOT be randomly stopping people or conducting roadblocks in an attempt to find those violating the order

Wheeles said that the Indiana State Police is focused on serving the citizens of Indiana during the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes helping to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“The Department’s response will focus on educating our citizens of the orders that are in place, directing them back to their home, the steps they can take to practice social distancing to keep their families healthy, and providing appropriate avenues to seek additional information. If an extraordinary situation requires enforcement in order to protect public safety, the issuance of a citation or physical arrest may be the necessary course of action to be taken.”