Stevens County Sheriff says plan needs to be in place to get economy moving

(BRAD MANKE/Stevens County Sheriff)

Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke released the following statement saying that he supports opening businesses and getting back to work, while also using guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. He also added that he cannot give permission for businesses to open as it is out of the scope of the Sheriff’s powers. Here is his full statement released today:

From the start of the Covid-19 response in the State of Washington, the business shut down, and stay at home orders from the Governor, it has been my position as the Sheriff that law enforcement’s place was to have conversations and educate our citizens to help as a guide through these times. Enforcement of orders has not been, nor will be a priority for the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office but rather to continue to educate for the health and safety of our citizens.

As the Sheriff, I have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Washington, as well as the laws of the State of Washington. We as citizens sometimes find ourselves in conflict as to whether we believe a law is constitutional or not. When I as law enforcement official find myself in this same dilemma, I will always do my best to side with the Constitution and I will direct the members of my Office to do so as well.

I believe Governor Inslee’s initial shutdowns and stay at home orders likely had a beneficial effect in slowing the spread of the virus and keeping our health care systems from being overwhelmed statewide. I feel it was surely beneficial to our community in keeping the spread of the virus into our county at bay by delaying spring bear and turkey season. We did not need the influx of out of the area exposure. I do believe this restriction should at least be lightened allowing for local residents to fish and hunt in the areas in which they live, just as they can continue to hike, kayak, 4 wheel or boat. At this time, I believe we need to have a plan in place to go back to work and get our economy moving.

We, as a community, have shown that we can be responsible for our actions. We can take precautions to protect ourselves and minimize exposures to the virus. Our local economy has suffered and we need to have a plan to bring it back in a deliberate and measured process when the May 4th order expires. This plan has to be based on common sense as well as science and medical best practices. It also has to be a plan that works in conjunction with our local health department, our local community health officer, our local governments as well as our community stakeholders. I fully support opening up businesses and getting back to work but this needs to be done with guidelines in place to keep the virus from suddenly spiking.

While this is my stance as the Stevens County Sheriff, I cannot give permission for a business to open or dictate that they stay closed. That is well out of the scope of a Sheriff’s powers. While one may be reasonably assured that they won’t face penalties from the Sheriff’s Office, there are many other regulatory agencies and departments that could certainly have a lasting effect on things such as business licenses and permits that would be beyond our authority or control.

What I can and will do is work with our local officials and governments across Northeast Washington to help form a common sense plan in going back to work and getting our economy back on track. Our goal is protecting public safety and public health in response to the unique challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 virus is still a real and present threat but if we are safe, we are smart, and we maintain practices to minimize exposures, together we can bring some normalcy back to our communities.

Sheriff Brad A. Manke