Local law enforcement agencies say they don’t aim to be heavy-handed with enforcing “stay at home” or “essential business” orders in the area.
The month-long “stay at home” order, which went into effect around the metro area Tuesday, is being treated as a health issue, not a criminal one, Independence Police spokesperson John Syme, echoing the sentiment from Kansas City Police when metro area officials announced the order. Police won’t be asking to see any papers for an essential business, stopping people because they’re out driving or setting up any checkpoints.
Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said one thing he has instructed officers to do is encourage sizable gatherings to break up if they encounter them.
“Like, say, 20 people playing basketball at the park,” Muenz said. “They approach at a safe distance, of course, and just ask them to go home.”
Kansas City Police posted that while “stay at home” is mandatory, and it’s a misdemeanor to not comply, they’re not trying to get people into trouble. They’re focused instead on voluntary compliance.
Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte said an “essential business” or restaurant compliance complaint in the county would first go to the county’s environmental health department.
“They’ll send out a letter at first, and there’s only been one thus far,” Forte said. “If they don’t comply, then we can go out there, and we have several ordinances we can use.”
Thus far, the sheriff’s office has not had such a case.
All around, agencies have not only taken some steps to maintain social distancing in the office but also to minimize close public interaction, such as closing station lobbies to the public and asking people to call in reports for non-911 cases.
“We're mainly encouraging the public to report non-emergency situations and make reports over the phone, instead of in person, to reduce our officers’ contact with citizens,” Syme said. “This is for their safety as well as ours.”
Independence police and firefighters are also accepting donations of homemade face masks and temporal scanner thermometers to use with patients they encounter in the field.
Forte said that with fielding calls, his dispatchers have a series of questions to discern if direct interaction is necessary.
“If it’s not an emergency, then we take it over the phone,” he said. “If we have to go to the house we’ll ask them to come outside and keep at a safe distance.”