California

Sheriff Says She’s Not Enforcing COVID-19 Orders. Puts Fresno in National Spotlight Again.

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Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is being cheered on social media after she told a local radio host on Tuesday she is not enforcing COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Conservative website Breitbart picked up Mims’ comments for an article posted online on Thursday. The story was headlined: “Fresno County Sheriff Won’t Enforce Stay-At-Home Orders; Too Busy Re-Arresting Freed Criminals.”

The article was actively shared by Twitter users. By Thursday afternoon, a search for “Fresno” on the social platform returned dozens of supportive posts linking to the Breitbart story.

National Exposure for Fresno

It was the third time this week that Fresno has received national media attention related to COVID-19 rules.

On Sunday, a group of protesters blocked a police officer and city inspectors from serving a citation to the owner of the Waffle Shop, which reopened in defiance of COVID-19 business restrictions. Then, on Tuesday, Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias scuffled with conservative activists protesting at his home over the city’s coronavirus response policies.

Both incidents received coverage by news outlets across the country.

Sheriff Confirms ‘No Enforcement’ Policy

Mims made her comments Tuesday on the Trevor Carey Show, which is simulcast weekday afternoons on two radio stations in Fresno branded as Power Talk.

Host Trevor Carey asked Mims, ““I’ve heard multiple sheriffs around the nation state they will not enforce their governors’ shelter-in-place orders. Is that your position?”

Mims replied, “That is my position.”

She added, “We do not stop the public to find out what they’re doing when they’re not sheltering in place. We don’t ask those questions, we don’t ask if they’re ‘essential.’ ”

Mims Says Focus is Elsewhere

The sheriff said her department is focused on other priorities. “We’ve got our hands full trying to re-arrest people that are released due to zero-dollar bail,” she told Carey.

Mims was referring to a policy implemented April 6 by the state Judicial Council, setting $0 bail for suspects arrested on misdemeanor and non-violent charges. The policy was enacted to limit jail populations and lessen demands on the court system during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tony Botti said Thursday that 711 suspects in Fresno County have been released on zero-dollar bail since the policy went into effect. There have been 87 re-bookings of previously released suspects since then, he said, resulting in a recidivism rate of 12.5%.

Jail Officer Tests Positive for COVID-19

The department also reported Thursday that a correctional officer at the jail recently tested positive for COVID-19. “(M)easures are being taken to identify, isolate and monitor any inmates who may have come in contact with the officer,” a department news release said.

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