Yakima Valley authorities don’t plan to enforce Inslee’s stay-at-home order just yet

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Yakima Police Department

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Both the City of Yakima’s police department and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office said they do not plan to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order at this time.

On Monday, Inslee, along with Attorney General Bob Ferguson and some law enforcement officials, announced plans for enforcing the order, which remains in effect through the end of April.

While the focus for law enforcement will be on public education, Inslee warned that people who don’t comply may face penalties in the form of a citation or even criminal charges.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee, law enforcement announce measures to enforce WA stay-at-home order

The warning appears to stem from an increase in coronavirus cases in certain counties where people likely aren’t following the order as closely as they should. However, the method of enforcement is up to individual law enforcement agencies.

The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office quashed rumors that this meant all agencies in the state would begin to strictly enforce the order:

Rumors about us, and other local law enforcement, watching people “like a hawk” to enforce the Governor’s “Stay At Home, Stay Healthy” order is NOT true! We are NOT stopping cars or people and asking if they are essential or not(That’s odd anyway…we are all essential). Our friend on top of the patrol car in the photo is just taking a break and not “watching” anyone.

Enforcement of the Governor’s order remains at the local level. People going to work can do so without fear of being stopped by deputies or officers. Rumors persist that farmworkers are being stopped, or that “papers” like special tags or licenses are needed to travel. Absolutely not!

All of us in law enforcement certainly encourage people to voluntarily observe the Governor’s order and the best practices it outlines. But we are not citing, stopping, detaining, arresting, or otherwise taking any enforcement action. Instead, we want people to take personal responsibility and take the best actions for themselves, their families, and their community.

We are being asked who is “Essential” in their jobs. This link will tell you: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed. The list of jobs still functioning is pretty extensive, so you will see many businesses still open. They may not be running full-bore, but our community has needs even in time of a crisis.

So, take care of yourselves and loved ones! Worry not about law enforcement taking action. If the situation changes, we’ll tell you!

The Yakima Police Department also issued a short statement in response to questions regarding the order:

The Yakima Health District is the agency with the authority to issue and enforce public health orders in Yakima and Yakima County. All complaints regarding violations of Stay-at Home orders should be reported to the Health District by calling 509-575-4040.

Complaints regarding violations should not be reported to the YPD or by calling 9-1-1.

“At this time, the YPD has not been assigned the responsibility of enforcing Stay-at-Home orders,” said Yakima Police Chief Matthew Murray. “Although local police could, at some point, be involved in the enforcement of violations of public health orders, the YPD has not transitioned to that level and won’t unless further directed by appropriate authorities,” said Murray.

YPD officers are operating as normal and are enforcing all laws that are the responsibility of local police.