Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) administration sought to use local police to enforce coronavirus orders, emails show.
The Detroit News obtained emails from former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon, who was a key point person for Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown strategy.
After the governor’s numerous executive orders were ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in October, Gordon sought the assistance of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association (MSA) and Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police on a plan to urge Michigan residents to call law enforcement on alleged order violators.
“With COVID-19 cases surging, there is great urgency to encourage masking and social distancing,” Gordon wrote on October 17, according to the paper. “These are the best tools available to slow the rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“While some people will act because they believe it is important, for others, a credible threat of sanction is likely to be critical.”
Both organizations rejected Gordon’s request, according to the News:
The following day, [MSA Executive Director Matthew] Saxton said the sheriffs’ association encouraged state agencies and law enforcement “to approach this issue from a standpoint of education.” The association offered to be part of a public service announcement encouraging people to wear masks.
“That said, MSA believes the administrative ticketing process would be difficult to enforce both legally and from a manpower perspective and encourages all parties to refrain from emphasizing that message, as it is both counterproductive and negative,” Saxton wrote. “Let’s be positive and encourage our fellow citizens to mask up, social distance and be safe by being public examples, rather than encouraging them to increase calls to our offices to report mask violations.”
Saxton told the paper “he wasn’t aware of any sheriff’s office that gave out a ticket for a violation of the state’s mask order.”
Several sheriffs refused to follow Whitmer’s orders, deeming them unconstitutional, an analysis later confirmed by the Supreme Court’s opinion.
But a handful of police departments did act to enforce Whitmer’s and MDHHS’s orders.
The municipality most aggressive at citing individuals and businesses is by far the city of Detroit. In February, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy dismissed over 1,600 citations issued by Detroit police, then headed by former Chief James Craig, or health officials enforcing Whitmer’s orders.
Worthy said there was “no legal basis” to prosecute the alleged offenders.
Grand Rapids — Michigan’s second-largest city — issued zero coronavirus order-related tickets, a police department representative told Breitbart News. Sterling Heights, the state’s fourth-largest city, wrote 12 tickets, a spokesman said. Lansing issued 10 “written reports,” which were referrals for potential prosecution, the police department told Breitbart News.
The Michigan Senate passed a resolution calling on Whitmer’s administration “to forgive all fines and fees accrued by businesses for violating COVID-19 orders or rules.”
The resolution said, “It is in Michigan’s interest to ensure that businesses are in the best position to emerge from the pandemic fiscally healthy.”
Whitmer has not indicated whether she will forgive the penalties.