Police and sheriff’s officers will not let the coronavirus stop them from enforcing the law, despite changes in procedures over the past two weeks.
Neosho County Undersheriff Greg Taylor said the jail is maintaining numbers so it can quarantine an inmate if necessary. He said some prisoners on misdemeanor charges without bond were released after a judge reviewed charges, and officers continue to make arrests.
“We’ll use some common sense as to who we bring in,” Taylor said.
Many Neosho County residents are staying home because of recent orders from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Neosho County Health Department, and Taylor said the community has responded well.
“A lot of people are doing the right thing,” he said. People leaving home are limited to trips for essentials like groceries and medicine, or to and from work at essential jobs.
Officials are clearing up whether people could be stopped by law officers if they do go out. Officers still need to suspect a crime to stop someone. Taylor said recent arrests have not been because of the pandemic.
“The fact that they’re out itself isn’t probable cause,” he said. “That could change 20 minutes from now.”
He said the situation has been very fluid and changeable over the past two weeks.
As of Monday, Neosho County still had only one reported case of coronavirus (COVID-19) although an increasing number of cases are being reported in surrounding counties. Taylor said it is possible a person could be a carrier for two weeks and not realize it.
The current stay-at-home order does not have an enforcement component, but Taylor said a quarantine is covered by statutes that law officers can enforce.
Officers have had to attend a lot of meetings and training over the past two weeks. Taylor said they have changed procedures for safety reasons, such as issuing protective gear for officers who may have to deal with suspects who could have the disease. There is a heightened sense of caution, he said, because officers do not want to risk taking the disease home to their families.
But Taylor said the situation is the same as when officers break up methamphetamine labs, and do not want to take contamination home.