California Sheriff's Departments Reject Newsom's Lockdown Order

December 6, 2020

Two California counties are refusing to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D.) new lockdown orders, which one county sheriff said are "disastrous." 

"While the governor's office and the state [have] threatened action against violators, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department will not be blackmailed, bullied, or used as muscle against Riverside County residents in the enforcement of the governor's orders," Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said Friday. 

Bianco criticized Newsom's "dictatorial attitude" toward Californians, requiring police to arrest, ticket, or close the businesses of violators, lest counties be punished with funding cuts. The sheriff also accused Newsom of attempting to distract from his own hypocrisy and irresponsibility, since the governor has dined out, kept his own winery open, and sent his children to private school.

"It appears part of the new goal is to shift attention away from his and others' personal behavior with a 'do as I say, not as I do' attitude by turning public opinion against California sheriffs," Bianco said.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department also rejected Newsom's order. Sheriff Don Barnes on Saturday said compliance with the lockdown is a "matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement" and said his deputies will not respond to calls about face coverings, social gatherings, or stay-at-home orders.

"To put the onus on law enforcement to enforce these orders against law-abiding citizens who are already struggling through difficult circumstances, while at the same time criticizing law enforcement and taking away tools to do our jobs, is both contradictory and disingenuous," Barnes said in a statement.

The California lockdown was announced on Thursday, weeks after Newsom was caught dining with at least 12 individuals at the French Laundry, a high-priced Napa Valley restaurant. The governor claimed he and his wife had followed social-distancing guidelines, but photos released following his initial statement show him violating numerous rules by talking maskless and in close proximity to people from various households, including California Medical Association officials.

The sheriffs' statements come two weeks after several county sheriffs told Newsom they would not enforce his curfew order, while San Bernardino County officials announced they are planning a lawsuit against the governor's "one-size-fits-all" restrictions.

Update 12/6/2020 2:00 p.m.: This piece was updated to include a statement from the Orange County Sheriff's Department.