Sheriff: Rumors about police enforcing stay-at-home order ‘unreal’

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County’s sheriff says his deputies are not stopping people to ask where they’re going.

Sheriff Steve Kempker said his department has not written any tickets for stay-at-home violations nor submitted any such warrant requests to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office.  

“There are so many rumors out there right now, it’s unreal,” wrote Kempker in an email exchange with News 8 on Sunday evening. “I have had about 25 plus of this same question you have asked.”

>>Inside woodtv.com: Coronavirus in West Michigan

News 8 reached out to Kempker after a Facebook poster claimed deputies were pulling people over and ticketing them for failing to comply with Gov. Whitmer’s Stay home, Stay safe order.

Kempker said that’s simply not the case. Deputies are not stopping drivers for that purpose.

They are, however, continuing to enforce traffic laws. Kempker took the opportunity to dispel rumors that the shutdown has impacted traffic laws.

“One rumor is that people don’t have to obey the speed limits right now or wait at a red light if there is traffic. Not true,” Kempker wrote. “Another (rumor) is if they’re driving to work that is essential, they are exempt from the traffic laws. Also not true.”

Kempker said while the department is fielding fewer calls for service overall, it is experiencing an increase in certain types of calls.

“A fact is that we are seeing a raise in domestic-related calls, which is concerning,” wrote Kempker.

Kent County also denied that its deputies are stopping people to determine if they’re violating the stay-at-home order.

“We don’t have any intentions of randomly stopping vehicles to see why they are on the road, the Sheriff (Michelle LaJoye-Young) has made that crystal clear to our staff,” wrote Lt. Joel Roon of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

“We ARE still pulling people over for traffic violations, i.e. speeding, running a red light etc,” Roon wrote. “The question of a person’s destination is a common question that the police ask motorists in the course of a routine traffic stop. We have not cited anyone for a violation of the state (executive order), to my knowledge.”

>>Who is an essential worker?

Roon said Kent County has taken an “education over enforcement” approach to the executive order from its inception.

While some essential businesses have provided employees with letters to explain why they’re out in public, Roon said it’s not necessary to present such paperwork if you’re stopped in Kent County.  


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