FRANKLIN COUNTY, MAINE – Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols wants to make one thing clear, his department will not be “setting up a police state” to enforce Governor Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order issued yesterday. Nichols is clearly mindful of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic but plans to use discretion in enforcing the Governor’s measure.
In a written statement, Sheriff Nichols, one of Maine’s sixteen county sheriffs said, “We will not be setting up a Police State. PERIOD.
The Sheriff’s Office will not purposefully go out and stop vehicles because they are on the road or stop and ask why people are out and about. To do so puts our officers at risk. This is not Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia where you are asked for your papers!”
His statement goes on to explain that what the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department will focus on is “rare situations where there are a lot of people overtly hanging out in public – obviously in defiance of the Governor’s order.”
Even then, Sheriff Nichols says, they will try to educate people first and “will avoid arrests unless absolutely necessary.”
He also reminded residents that his team is “more interested in the safety and well-being of the public as well as our officers at this time. With that being said, we are sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of the State – for any unlawful act/situation, arrestees will be taken into custody and transported for fingerprinting and bail.”
The Sheriff’s statement was made the morning after Governor Janet Mills’ latest announcement, a stay at home order from April 2 through April 30.
Mills’ order provides a host of exceptions to allow individuals to travel to essential services and stores, such as grocery stores, and to care for family members.
Sheriff Nichols added, “The best way to approach the coming days is to treat everyone as though they have the virus. Follow strict CDC guidelines and recommendations, use masks if needed, wash your hands frequently, disinfect, wear gloves and use common sense in all situations. The longer we do NOT follow these guidelines, the longer we wait in isolation.
Most of you are doing a fantastic job – we appreciate that! Please look out for one another, especially the elderly and shut-ins. Please be a good neighbor/citizen always showing compassion. Please be kind especially on social media, negativity online only adds to the stress people are currently experiencing.”
While the language in Gov. Mills’ stay at home order means violations could be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail, the order only says that it “shall be enforced by law enforcement as necessary.”
According to the latest Maine CDC numbers, Maine has 344 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, April 1. That is an increase of 41 from yesterday. Seven people have died in Maine due to COVID-19. Thirteen of Maine’s sixteen counties now have confirmed cases.