The Sheriff of Crook County, Oregon, John Gautney, announced this week that the time has come for businesses to re-open, and that he and his officers will not stand in their way. In his statement, he acknowledged the seriousness of the coronavirus and the tragedy of the lives lost, while maintaining that each individual and each business has the right to choose which safety measures (if any) to take. The full statement can be read on Facebook or below (emphasis added by me):
May 4, 2020
The last many weeks have been a very difficult time for all of us. The unknown has created fear in many people to the point that it has been crippling to our economy. Crook County has been very good at maintaining our ability to function, in the most part, by doing what we have always done; using our common sense. There have been many businesses in our community that have been terribly harmed by the closing of the businesses by the State. In some of the more populated areas of Oregon, that might be needed, but not in Crook County. We have had one COVID case since this event started, and that was weeks ago, with no new cases since. As a rural county of Oregon we have been able to take care of ourselves and our families for years, and that is no different today.
I don’t want to see more families hurt by this virus, and it is terrible what families that have lost a loved one have gone through. My heart goes out to them. I, in no way want to lessen the importance of their loss.
I know that recently there has been criticism of the local government officials for not doing anything to get the county back open. I have been here almost every day since this crisis started and I can tell you that the county government is working daily to try and get the economy moving again. It is not always visible to the general public because it is going on behind the scenes. Judge Crawford, Commissioners Brummer and Barney have been constantly meeting with the Governor’s Office along with our County Health Director putting together a plan to move us forward.
Regarding the Sheriff’s Office, we had immediately taken measures to protect the county from lawsuits from special interest groups in regard to inmate safety because of this virus. In doing so we reduced the number of inmates in cooperation with local law enforcement, the Courts and our Community Corrections Division. We are currently in a very good position to protect our inmates and staff by implementing restrictions during the booking process. Our medical staff is constantly observing and taking any action necessary should anyone show indications of an illness. Our Patrol Division is continuing to patrol the county and answer your calls for service while practicing protocols that will protect themselves as well as the public. Our Community Corrections Division is continuing to monitor their clients and hold them accountable as needed.
Many are concerned that law enforcement will arrest anyone who violates the stay home order. That is simply not true for the Crook County Sheriff’s Office. As we have seen released in the media more than once, that Oregon law enforcement’s role in this is that of EDUCATION if they see violations. The enforcement role falls to the organization that issues licenses for that particular business. If a business decides to open, that is a decision the business owner makes. If customers choose to shop with that business that is that person’s choice. We are a free society and able to make decisions based on common sense. I see large businesses open every day with lots of customers and they are using safety precautions if they choose. The point is they have the right to choose. If the large stores can accommodate the large number of customers and operate effectively, why are we not letting the small business operate under the same guidelines?
I know this is going to draw disapproval by some, and that is ok. That is their right to do so. That is what our country is based on. If you are elderly and have underlying medical issues, then by all means stay home, IF YOU CHOOSE to do so.
I believe in supporting the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Oregon and the laws thereof. I also try to apply common sense in the application of those laws.
Keeping this in mind, and after consultation with my staff, effective May 5, 2020, the Crook County Sheriff’s Office will be open for regular business, with some restrictions in place so that we may serve all citizens that need our services. New Concealed Handgun License (CHL) applicants will be able to resume with the application process. If you are on our waitlist, our office staff will be contacting you to make an appointment. CHL renewals will continue to be done by mail until our backlog is caught up.
With this change in our operation we do ask your cooperation for the time being. Please respect other’s by only two people in our lobby at a time. If you are sick with any illness, please reschedule your appointment until you are well. This is to protect my staff so they can continue to remain open and serve you.
Due to the close environment of the jail facility and the need to protect our persons in custody, as well as our staff, restrictions will remain in place for the immediate future.
As I have always said, if you have questions about the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, or of me as your Sheriff, please contact my office and arrange a time that we can meet. To this date since this crisis began, I have only have one person from the community call and asked to meet with me over the issues that we are facing.
Going forward I ask that you please allow the county officials to work to get Crook County up and running again. We can make this happen by all working together. If we are not united, then we are divided and that cannot be good for our economy or our lives.
Sheriff John Gautney