News & Politics

California Sheriff Insists 'This Is Not a Police State' After Vowing to Arrest People Without Masks

Screenshot/YouTube

The Riverside County Sheriff’s announcement that his deputies would roll up anyone seen without a face mask must have sent more than a few people to the dictionary to look up “police state” or “martial law.”

But have no fear. Sheriff Chad Bianco assured viewers of his recorded message (see below) on this “valid order … enforceable by fine, imprisonment, or both,” that he was not establishing a police state nor has martial law had been invoked.

Oh. Thanks for clearing that up.

“…I need to make it perfectly clear to all residents of Riverside County. We will not be setting up any kind of police state and this is not a declaration of martial law in Riverside County. Deputies will not be stopping vehicles or setting up checkpoints for motorists. We will not be stopping you while on a walk with your kids or while you’re out running or hiking. You will not be stopped and ticketed simply because you’re not wearing a mask. The purpose of this order and the [Health Department] doctor’s intent, is to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The sheriff went on to explain that otherwise healthy people can transmit the highly contagious disease to more vulnerable people.

KTLA says it’s the healthy people who need to change their behavior:

“While more and more Riverside County residents are getting COVID-19, not everybody’s getting the message,” county Public Health Director Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in a statement Saturday. “It started with staying home, social distance and covering your face. But now we change from saying that you should to saying that you must.”

Riverside County, California’s fourth most populous county, has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. A nursing home full of COVID-19 patients had to be evacuated Wednesday after employees failed to show up for two straight days to take care of them. Two sheriffs deputies have died of the disease.

The order to wear masks is in effect until April 30.

Models of real-time numbers show California’s coronavirus cases to be fewer than projected as well as the need for ventilators and hospital rooms. But that’s with people observing social distancing rules.

KTLA says the sheriff says he doesn’t want anyone snitching on people by calling 9-1-1.

“While this order does have potential criminal and civil consequences, that is the last thing I want to happen while we deal with this crisis,” he said.

“The next two or three weeks are going to be very trying times for your first responders and our medical personnel,” he said.

As of Monday, nearly 950 cases had been confirmed in the county. A total of 25 people had died from the disease, while another 60 had fully recovered.

The sheriff says “good old common sense” – staying home, covering your face in public – will help us get through the worst of the COVID-19 disease.