Orange County law enforcement establishes protocol for social distancing violations

GOSHEN – The offices of the Orange County District Attorney and Sheriff and State Police have instituted a protocol to investigate referrals from the State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force regarding possible violations of emergency executive orders related to COVID-19.

The governor’s orders were designed to reduce social density by discouraging unnecessary gathering of people in close contact in businesses and public places.

The county protocol calls for referrals from the state PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force that are alleged to be occurring in Orange County will be initially investigated by the State Police and Sheriff’s Office in consultation with the District Attorney’s Office.

If it is determined that criminal charges are not warranted, subsequent referrals might then be made to the county health department or other county or local regulatory agencies such as code enforcement officers.

It will then be determined whether fines or other penalties should be pursued.

“All agencies involved in this initiative agree that obtaining compliance with social distancing regulations is the primary goal,” said DA David Hoovler. “Law enforcement officials have been encouraged to issue warnings and to break up and disrupt illegal and unsafe gatherings before considering filing charges or taking other punitive measures. However, we cannot tolerate those who refuse to comply with lawful orders of the police to disperse and thereby endanger others as well as themselves.”

Sheriff Carl DuBois encouraged the use of the reporting system but reminds the public that “this is for legitimate danger to public safety violations. All of our partners are very busy during this pandemic for obvious reasons. Frivolous or retaliatory reporting will distract and waste time from serious violations.”

“This task force will help us put restrictions on businesses and gatherings through executive orders designed to reduce public density,” said County Executive Steven Neuhaus. “In turn, it will slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19. Law enforcement is very busy right now and must concentrate on emergencies and saving lives, not breaking up gatherings. I urge all residents to practice social distancing. Regardless of where anyone lives or their background the message has to be clear: Stay Home.”

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