Albany, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted county sheriffs who are refusing to barge into people’s homes to break up gatherings of more than 10 people, arguing that his executive order limiting the size of private gatherings is the equivalent of law.
Cuomo said the sheriffs who have vowed to ignore the mandate he issued last week are “arrogant” and “frightening to democracy,” the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
The governor claimed that his executive order is no different than a codified law, and that he issued it in order to force people to stop the “living room spread” of the novel coronavirus.
“I don’t believe as a law enforcement officer, you have a right to pick and choose what laws you will enforce,” Cuomo ranted. “’Well, I don’t believe in that law and therefore I won’t enforce it.’ That is frankly frightening to me as an individual, frightening to democracy. It’s arrogant, and it violates your constitutional duty.”
He then declared that officers who refuse to comply “should not be certified” as law enforcement officers, The Daily Star reported.
“You have to enforce the law or don’t call yourself a law enforcement official,” he said.
But many New York law enforcement leaders argue that Cuomo’s directive is in direct conflict with the actual codified laws they’ve been sworn to uphold, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
“We are regulated by the legal guidelines of our response to complaints as to whether or not we have license and privilege to enter private residences, based upon warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Steuben County Sheriff James Allard said in a statement after Cuomo’s order was handed down.
“As such, the men and women of the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office will not be peeking in your window or attempting to enter your property to count the number of persons at your table on Thanksgiving,” Sheriff Allard assured residents.
He urged citizens to do their part by self-regulating the size of their gatherings in order to protect themselves and others.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard said he also has “no plans” to utilize his office’s “resources or deputies” to break up Thanksgiving traditions, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
“My office will respect the sanctity of your home and traditions, and I encourage you to follow your heart and act responsibly, as well as do what’s best for your family,” Sheriff Howard added.
Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino explained in a Facebook post on Nov. 14 that with regards to individual citizens, executive orders are generally “not a law in the sense that there are no penalties attached and you can’t be arrested.”
Sheriff Giardino, who has worked as an attorney, prosecutor, and judge in the past, said his office will not be enforcing Cuomo’s executive order.
“Frankly, I am not sure it could sustain a Constitutional challenge in Court for several reasons including your house is your castle,” he wrote. “And as a Sheriff with a law degree I couldn’t in good faith attempt to defend it in Court, so I won’t.”
He also refused to use his department’s “limited resources” to obtain search warrants in order “to enter your home to see how many Turkey or Tofu eaters are present.”
“The only way to enter your residence is if we have a warrant, we are invited in or an exigent or emergency circumstance exist,” Sheriff Giardino said. “We have three patrols a shift for 500 square miles, monitoring Family Dinners aren’t our priority. So don’t feel a need to hide cars, cover with leaves or walk 3 blocks so your house doesn’t become a target of the Governors EO.”
He said he trusts Fulton County residents to “use their own judgement” and to “weigh the risks to your loved ones versus the reward.”
“People have enough anxiety in their life without thinking that the police are going to come to their door and check on how many people are there,” Sheriff Giardino told the Times Union on Sunday.
“I don’t view this as political; I view it as common sense,” he added. “People have common sense. They are not going to jeopardize family members. They are not going to jeopardize close friends…The threat is not so great that we should be limiting who they can have for Thanksgiving.”
Cuomo argued that he’s not asking law enforcement officers to “knock on doors” and “count heads,” but said officers should intervene if they happen to bump into violators.
“You come across a gathering for one reason or another and there’s 20 people there, you say, ‘this can’t happen,’” he instructed. “By the way, states all across the nation are doing this.”
Cuomo said some people believe they aren’t risking the spread of COVID-19 if they are gathering with their family members.
“’But I’m just with my family. My family would never infect me,’” he said. “Your family’s not in control of it.”
Cuomo’s senior advisor, Rich Azzopardi, said that sheriffs who refuse to enforce the governor’s order are playing politics with people’s lives, the Times Union reported.
“Politicians acting like politicians and ignoring what the actual experts say has been fueling the spread of this virus is what plunged this country in this continued public health crisis in the first place,” Azzopardi declared.