Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association traded critical statements Monday over enforcement of one of Cuomo’s recent executive orders limiting non-essential private residential gatherings to no more than 10 individuals.
The order has drawn the ire of upstate New York sheriffs who, in recent days, have said the order is impossible to enforce and they won’t try to enforce it.
“If you think we’re going to drag grandma from the house on Thanksgiving because she’s the 11th person, you’re talking to the wrong sheriff,” Orleans County Sheriff Christopher Bourke told the Batavia Daily News last week. “We’ve been getting NY Pause complaints right along. It’s never ending. We’re going to handle this the same. If we get a complaint, we’ll stop by but we are not going to check on the number of people in houses and we are not going to enforce the executive order.”
During a Monday morning press conference, Cuomo said he believes law enforcement officers who choose not to enforce laws they don’t agree with have violated their Constitutional duty.
“I don’t consider them a law enforcement officer because you don’t have the right to pick laws that you think you will enforce and you don’t enforce laws that you don’t agree with. That’s not a law enforcement officer, that’s a dictator,” Cuomo said. “… if that’s the way you run your law enforcement agency, I don’t consider it a law enforcement agency. So God bless you, but don’t ask me for help.”
Cuomo said such actions would set a “dangerous precedent” that would open the door for Sheriffs to decide not to enforce other laws they don’t agree with.
“Police officer says ‘Well, I don’t think cocaine should be illegal, so I’m not going to enforce the cocaine laws,’” said Cuomo, offering a hypothetical example. “It’s not up to you. You don’t have that right
Following Cuomo’s press conference, the Sheriff’s Association released a joint statement on behalf of elected sheriffs across New York State Monday evening that criticized, among other things, Cuomo’s framing of his order.
“We believe that rather than issuing orders that cannot be practically enforced, and then blaming law enforcement when they are not enforced, the Governor would better serve the people of New York if he were to use his position to encourage citizens to use common sense and voluntarily adhere to the guidance of state and federal health officials. We would gladly join him in that,” said the association. “We know the citizens of our communities, and we believe they would be far more likely to voluntarily follow his recommendations than his orders.”
In its statement, the association urged New Yorkers to listen to public health official, limit their exposure to those outside their immediate household “as much as you reasonably can.”
“If we all do that, we will sooner be able to get back to normal,” said the association. “We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things. It is a matter of individual responsibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.”
The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office posted the text of the Sheriffs’ Association’s statement on its Facebook page Monday evening. Livingston County Sheriff Thomas J. Dougherty serves as the association’s second vice president.
The statement was overwhelmingly well-received on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, where it had garnered more than 200 comments, more than 700 reactions and been shared more than 600 times within about an hour. Users lauded the agency for committing to not enforce the public health measure.
“THAT is the most sound perspective I have heard from any group of ELECTED officials,” commented Michael P. Yusko, whose profile identified him as a resident of Lima. “Thank you for your insight, understanding and willingness to be reasonable while encouraging others to be reasonable.
“Perfectly explained! This is not the job of the Sheriffs office to get involved in this,” commented Beverly Halliley Clark, whose profile identified her as a resident of Nunda. “We need to be responsible for our own decisions! It’s not your job and our Governor should not expect you to! Besides, according to him, you can’t hold anybody for anything anyway!!! Unbelievable! Great job LCS!!
Other users criticized the statement.
“What makes you ‘confident people will voluntarily rise to the occasion?’ commented Gabriel J. Recchio, whose profile identified him as a resident of Rochester. “Because a pragmatic interpretation of our collective failure to contain this pandemic makes it painfully clear to me that there is no evidence that supports the belief that people are going to suddenly start acting responsibly.”
Dougherty didn’t immediately respond to a request to clarify his opposition on Cuomo’s order Monday evening.