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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane law enforcement focus on education ahead of enforcement of ‘stay home’ order

UPDATED: Tue., March 24, 2020

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich crosses Monroe Street during a walk around Spokane in this picture from 2017. The sheriff said his deputies would prefer to educate rather than ticket people and businesses that are not abiding by Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order issued Monday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich crosses Monroe Street during a walk around Spokane in this picture from 2017. The sheriff said his deputies would prefer to educate rather than ticket people and businesses that are not abiding by Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order issued Monday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane law enforcement agencies will focus on education not enforcement of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order issued Monday.

“We are not going to take efforts that are going to be draconian on this, folks,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said at a news conference Tuesday. “We’re going to educate you.”

The “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order prohibits gatherings and requires nonessential businesses to close by Wednesday evening.

Those restrictions don’t mean law enforcement will immediately begin issuing citations or pulling the licenses of businesses that don’t comply. Such actions, Knezovich said, are options down the road.

“We’re asking you to calm down,” Knezovich said. “We’re asking you to comply with the regulations.”

The Spokane Police Department has taken a similar tack by focusing on education. Sgt. Terry Preuninger said in a statement Monday night that officers will remind noncompliant citizens of the recommendations rather than issue citations.

“We are not being asked to detain, arrest or ticket those outside compliance,” Preuninger said. “Our intent is to help Spokane residents by educating them on how to keep themselves safe, how to keep their families safe and how to keep the rest of the community safe.”

The police department will continue to focus on crime prevention and public safety, Preuninger said.

Knezovich reiterated there are no road restrictions in Washington state and that the state’s borders are open.

“We’re not going to be out there like a hall monitor looking for passes,” Knezovich said.

Both issues are rumors that have sprung from social media, Knezovich said. The sheriff encouraged people to get their information from reputable sources like the CDC and Spokane COVID-19 response team.

Knezovich said he is leaning toward the three-strike rule for essential businesses that aren’t complying with the social distancing requirements or for nonessential businesses that refuse to close. After contacting the business three times, Knezovich said deputies would write a citation or consider having the business’ license pulled.

Community members can call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 if they see a business not complying with the order. Crime Check will aggregate the calls so deputies can contact the business owners, Knezovich said. Citizens should not call 911 to report large gatherings or businesses not following the order, Knezovich said.

The message to educate and engage is something happening at a state level with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs encouraging the same steps.

“Law officers have not been asked to detain, arrest, ticket or establish checkpoints for compliance,” an association statement reads. “The Stay at Home order is like other laws in that they work because people agree with the rationale and see it as a legitimate and sensible way to keep people safe.”

In Spokane, Knezovich said the ball is in the community’s court when it comes to protecting each other and complying with the order.

“We need you to protect you, your family and your friends,” Knezovich said. “We’re out there to remind you to follow the guidelines that have been given.”

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