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Rantz: Memo tells cops to plan for coronavirus shelter-in-place order

Gov Jay Inslee. (TVW)

The Joint Information Center (JIC) tells Washington sheriffs and police chiefs they should plan for an imminent coronavirus shelter-in-place directive (or coronavirus stay-at-home), in a memo obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

The memo, sent Sunday evening, is intended to coordinate how law enforcement will message a coronavirus shelter-in-place order to the public. It does not say the order will definitely come; instead, they want law enforcement to be ready.

That makes sense but it seems likely Inslee will announce the order Monday.

The memo, sent by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), offers terminology they’d prefer law enforcement use to help calm a nervous community. Then they offer answers to frequently asked questions.

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Coronavirus shelter-in-place tweak

Though the media and other states have used coronavirus “shelter-in-place” messaging, the JIC warns this is technically inaccurate and could frighten the public. The memo says that phrase “exacerbates feelings of fear and anxiety which can escalate behaviors we are trying to reduce.”

Instead, JIC recommends law enforcement say “stay at home as much as possible.” The memo explains:

Don’t make people try to interpret your words. If you want people to stay home as much as possible, say “stay at home as much as possible.” If you want people to stay at home and not leave for any reason until told otherwise, then you might choose to say “shelter-in-place” with a clear explanation of what exactly that means.

The JIC also attempts to word police, warning law enforcement to “use language that is culturally sensitive” as a way to “be inclusive.”

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Coronavirus stay-at-home imminent?

The WASPC also provides a series of frequently asked questions with suggested answers. Unsurprisingly, the first one is whether or not a coronavirus shelter-in-place (or stay-at-home) directive is imminent.

WASPC suggests that law enforcement “should all plan that it may happen.”

The memo asks law enforcement to assure the public “that all essential food and supplies will continue across our roadways, that people will be able to travel to get essential needs like food and medical help, and that there are no current needs or plans to close our borders with other states.”

The WASPC recommends law enforcement remind the public: “As Governor Inslee has stated, it is imperative that we reduce the amount of travel in our state to slow the spread of COVID-19 and they are continuously reviewing data in hopes of avoiding travel restrictions in the future.”

No coronavirus shelter-in-place enforcement

The WASPC uses language from California law enforcement as a guide for how they should speak in Washington. And it includes reassurances that we should not expect law enforcement to enforce any restrictions.

  • The Governor is not asking law enforcement to enforce the statewide stay-at-home order. To preserve public health and safety the hope is that people will self-regulate their behavior and home isolate, protect themselves and go about only the essential activities using social distancing and common sense.
  • Your local law enforcement has no intention of carrying out such restrictions with an enforcement effort. Our communities have already shown they understand the severity of the situation we are all experiencing and are doing all they can already to keep themselves, their families and neighbors safe and healthy.
  • Our deputies are not by any means going around different neighborhoods and areas checking to see if people are out when they shouldn’t be. We understand some people need to carry out essential duties. If you need to go to the pharmacy and pick up your medication, that’s OK. If you’re out in the grocery store to pick up food, that’s fine. We’re not actively seeking people out. Again, we just want people to listen to the order and stay home if they don’t need to be out.
  • I want to be perfectly clear that neither the Sheriff’s Office, nor any of the police departments have any desire to make any arrests or take anybody to jail for violations. We view our role more as one of education. Educating people how to keep themselves safe, how to keep their families safe and most importantly, to keep the rest of the community safe, especially our vulnerable populations, is the purpose of this order.

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What about the National Guard?

At the request of Governor Jay Inslee, President Donald Trump activated the National Guard to assist in coronavirus relief efforts. WASPC recognizes that this will need to be explained. The memo provides this guidance on messaging:

The utilization of the National Guard is under discussion and WASPC is working to represent the needs of local law enforcement in decision-making. We want to assure our communities that we will work with the National Guard to ensure public safety and that troops are not coming into our communities to arrest, detain or punish residents.

“The federal government will be funding 100 percent of the cost of deploying National Guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus while those governors remain in command,” President Trump said Sunday afternoon at the daily coronavirus task force White House briefing.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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