In a blistering speech in front of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors this week, Sheriff Chad Bianco said he was standing by his decision not to enforce California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict lockdown orders, insisting that he was not about to “make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights.”
Bianco, who has been both praised and criticized for his stance against the state’s shutdown orders, said that Newsom and other government officials had “participated in something never done before in our nation’s history.”
“They ordered residents into their homes, closed their businesses, made them wear masks, forbid them from going to church, and eliminated constitutional freedoms put in place over 200 years ago,” he said. “In the name of a public health crisis, our civil liberties and constitutional protections were placed on hold.”
Bianco said that those measures worked to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases, but he argued that California residents – particularly those in lesser-hit counties like Riverside – could not be expected to remain shut-in for the rest of the year. He said that further coronavirus measures need to be based on “facts and data” rather than “fear.”
However, he said, he did not enforce the measures from the beginning, because he “trusted our residents’ ability to do the right thing without fear of being arrested.”
“I knew they could be trusted to act as responsible adults, and I was correct,” he said. “As we continue, I will reinforce my position. Not only do we not have the resources to enforce unreasonable orders, I refuse to make criminals out of business owners, single moms, and otherwise healthy individuals for exercising their constitutional rights. I believe Riverside County residents are responsible enough to proceed cautiously.”
Bianco’s stance is one that most state and local leaders are going to have to adopt as we move forward into the next phase of this outbreak. From both a practical standpoint and a public safety standpoint, a prolonged lockdown just isn’t going to work. Sooner than later, we’re going to have to put the emphasis on personal responsibility. Keep the warnings coming. Keep the guidelines coming. That’s fine. But forcing Americans to stay shut up in their homes? Forcing businesses to stay closed until they finally have no choice but to go out of business? That can’t go on.