OC Sheriff Don Barnes issued the following statement on December 5, 2020, in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest shutdown order:

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us in many ways.  The pandemic, civil unrest, and fires have affected us all.

Governor Newsom announced new stay-at-home orders for much of California, including Orange County.  The ever-changing nature of these orders and the increase of COVID-19 case numbers bring additional uncertainty and stress to California residents.

To put the onus on law enforcement to enforce these orders against law-abiding citizens who are already struggling through difficult circumstances, while criticizing law enforcement and taking away tools to do our jobs is contradictory and disingenuous.

Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will remain consistent in our approach to the pandemic. Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will not be dispatched to, or respond to, calls for service to enforce compliance with face coverings, social gatherings, or stay-at-home orders only.  Deputies will respond to calls for potential criminal behavior and for the protection of life and property.  Our actions will remain consistent with all constitutional rights.

As we have done throughout this pandemic, we must remain diligent in preventing the spread of the virus by following public health recommendations, like wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing.  Conversely, policy makers must not penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying freedoms.

The month of December is typically a time for celebrating.  I know this year is different, but we do not need to cancel the spirit of the season.  I encourage you to remake holiday traditions to accommodate public health guidelines, reach out to a neighbor, or help someone in need.  The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will continue our tradition of participating in charitable efforts for those in need and our commitment to keep you safe during the holidays.