Siskiyou Sheriff LaRue, local police chiefs won't actively enforce California's curfew order

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue and other local police chiefs say they're not going to actively enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom's order imposing a nighttime curfew amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, while Congressman Doug LaMalfa called the order "laughable" and said the police are too busy catching people Newsom let out of prison to be enforcing a curfew.

What officials are calling a limited stay-at-home order requires nonessential residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting tomorrow, but some law enforcement officials say they will not be enforcing the new mandate. 

It affects counties with the most severe restrictions, 41 of the state’s 58 counties that are in the “purple” tier under California’s color-coded system for reopening the economy. That covers 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents, and includes Siskiyou County.

Jeremiah LaRue was sworn in as the new interim Siskiyou County Sheriff on Oct. 6, 2020 during a ceremony in front of the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Yreka.

LaRue said the Sheriff's Department will continue to take an "education-based approach," as it has since March when the pandemic first hit California.

"We want the community to stay informed, apply good judgment, be considerate of each other, and behave responsibly concerning COVID-19," LaRue said in a statement Friday. "However, we also don’t want residents and guests to be afraid or concerned about being pulled over, issued a citation, or arrested in this county for violation of this and other health-related orders.

"Therefore, to ensure the protection of constitutional rights of all our residents and guests, and to protect deputies from unnecessary close interactions with others, the SCSO will not be responding to calls solely for the purposes of investigating incidents related to face coverings, social gatherings, or to count how many people are at your table during Thanksgiving dinner."

Yreka Police Department Lt. Chris Betts concurred with LaRue. "In response to any kind of curfew or newly announced restrictions, the Yreka Police Department will continue to focus on calls where there is an immediate threat to life and/or public safety," he said.

Mount Shasta Police Chief Parish Cross said he has "trust and faith that the citizens of Mount Shasta will make every effort to keep each other safe" and doesn't plan to monitor whether or not people are essential workers or how many people are at Thanksgiving celebrations.

The curfew order comes only days after the state imposed restrictions limiting business operations in those 41 counties, which have the most significant increases in virus cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at the California for All Emergency Management Preparedness Summit on Monday in Sacramento.

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement.

The order will last one month, until Dec. 21, but could be extended if infection rates and disease trends don’t improve.

“What we don’t need are government social workers to tuck us in at night, and they certainly aren’t invited to our Thanksgiving table. The absurdity is that it’s a nighttime curfew. This virus doesn’t somehow turn up its wattage at 10 p.m.," said Congressman LaMalfa in a press release.

“Most of my constituents don’t buy $400 meals at swanky Napa restaurants as the Governor does, but it’s not his or the government’s business when and where we eat anyway. This curfew is essentially saying you can stay out late and have seafood in San Francisco, but not enjoy a late ribeye in Red Bluff," LaMalfa's statement said.

"A free people should make their own educated decisions about what is safe and how they would like to behave," he said.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa believes that in places where coronavirus numbers are low, such as in Nevada County, restaurants should be allowed to offer indoor dining despite Governor's Newsom's recent orders. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

While nonessential businesses must close by 10 p.m., restaurants will be permitted to offer takeout food and people can perform some routine activities like walking the dog, officials said.

They will still be able to get medical care, pick up prescriptions and take care of other essential needs.

Officials said overnight movements are more likely to involve social activities that bring increased risk of infection, particularly if people drink and let down their guard on basic safety precautions like wearing masks and staying a safe distance apart.

It follows the state’s more sweeping lockdown in the spring that affected all residents, day and night.

“We know from our stay-at-home order this spring, which flattened the curve in California, that reducing the movement and mixing of individuals dramatically decreases COVID-19 spread, hospitalizations, and deaths,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement. “We may need to take more stringent actions if we are unable to flatten the curve quickly."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.