As Wisconsin enters its first weekend under Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order, Milwaukee police are taking an educational approach to enforcing the order and reserving legal penalties for repeat offenders.
In a department video posted to social media this week, Chief Alfonso Morales said officers are anticipating confusion about the order and will take an educational approach when stepping in to disperse gatherings.
“But make no mistake, violators of the stay-at-home order put first responders and the community at risk of spreading COVID-19 and repeat offenders could face arrest or possible criminal penalties,” Morales said.
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In the video, Morales indicated that other Milwaukee-area law enforcement agencies were taking a similar approach.
Other police departments in the state have clarified that they will not randomly pull over cars to determine why they’re on the road.
“You may be thinking, ‘How is this being enforced?’ Good question,” the Wausau Police Department said in a Facebook post. “Our sincere hope is that voluntary compliance will reign. In the rare instance that our officers need to step in, they will seek to gain that voluntary compliance.”
Law enforcement can punish violators with a $250 fine or 30 days in jail, according to Evers’ order.
In Wauwatosa, however, police are authorized to fine offenders up to $500, according to an ordinance the city council there passed earlier this week.
Milwaukee Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Sheronda Grant said officers have already been called to multiple areas and business establishments about possible violations of the order and individuals have voluntarily dispersed.
“MPD is still seeking voluntary compliance from our community as we fight COVID-19 together,” she said.
The order, which is to last until April 24, specifies six justified reasons to leave your home, none of which require any kind of documentation to be done:
- To perform essential government functions or work for an essential business. Performing minimum, basic operations for non-essential businesses and essential travel are also acceptable.
- To obtain services at work or to work for health care and public health operations.
- To perform tasks that are essential to health and safety, such as obtaining medical supplies, medications, seeking emergency services or visiting a health care professional.
- To obtain necessary supplies, such as food, gasoline, pet supplies and other household items.
- To engage in outdoor activity as long as individuals remain more than six feet apart.
- To care for family members, friends and other pets in other households, including their transportation.
Evan Casey of NOW News Group contributed to this report.
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