A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Linn law enforcers: Trust the people

Written November 19th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

The Linn County Courthouse one day in January 2020.

The message was clear before, and it’s even clearer now: Violating the governor’s corona order may or may not kill you — most probably not — but it won’t land you in court or jail, at least not in Linn County.

The county’s top law enforcers, District Attorney Doug Marteeny and Sheriff Jim Yon, sent out an email from the sheriffs office Thursday afternoon.

Here it is, all of it:

“Before this year, we would have never imagined having to wear a mask and avoiding close contact when others are around. We have experienced Covid-19 restrictions for quite some time now. There are many businesses in our community holding on by a thread. People are struggling because they feel cut off and alone.

“We understand the realities of Covid-19, but we draw the line when we are dealing with decisions relating to individual residences, religion, or businesses.

“The Linn County Sheriff’s Office decided back in April that we would not do criminal enforcement on Covid-19 measures. Our role in the community is not to count how many people are at a residence or how an individual business conducts its affairs. We definitely do not interfere with religious organizations. We are going to continue to educate citizens, as needed, and that is where we will stop. We trust citizens to assess risk and take precautions as appropriate given their individual circumstances. We are not going to criminally enforce the COVID-19 restrictions contained in the Governor’s order.”

Starting this Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gov. Kate Brown had ordered a series of two-week restrictions on businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, and private gatherings in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Oregon. Then she issued an executive order under her emergency powers, which has the effect of turning violations of the restrictions into misdemeanors punishable by fines or jail time.

The Oregon State Police and the statewide associations of police chiefs and sheriffs responded with a statement that their approach to any reported violations would be education first, and enforcement would be a “last resort.”

The Linn County officials also talk of education where it’s needed, but there is no “last resort” after that. They sound as though they trust citizens to be smart enough to take measures on their own — masks, distancing, staying home when possible, no parties or group sessions, and so forth. It’s up to citizens to prove them right. (hh)

16 responses to “Linn law enforcers: Trust the people”

  1. Rick says:

    I appreciate all the Sheriff’s Department does concerning Covid-19 protocols, I’m not sure what they are, perhaps they tell you to wear a mask if they encounter you in their line of duty.

    The only mention they have on their website is that the offices are closed. Yes, even in the community resources Covid-19 resources section.

  2. Adriana says:

    Hasso, I expect better of you than “the governor’s corona order.” Please refer to this virus by its proper name: COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2. As for the rest of it? People don’t seem to care about their neighbors, which is exactly why we are in this pickle. Expecting people to do the right thing is too tall of an order for too many people.

    • Al Nyman says:

      Why don’t you call it the China virus instead of being politically correct and criticizing Hasso.

    • Albany person says:

      Wow, it is NOT up to the police to snoop in homes, this is the Holliday season, there ARE families out here that have more then 6 people.. you should call your governor and ask for a whistle blower job, going door to door, asking how many people are there, kinda like a “ thanksgiving census”

    • Shanie says:

      We ALL know what it is, pretty sure we don’t need the “technical term”

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Gov. Brown can’t inspire her subjects to comply, so she brings out the blunt axe – arrest and jail the great unwashed. Welcome to the Police State of Oregon.

    There’s a bitter irony here. Arresting and detaining are more likely to put people in harm’s way. You don’t have to be a public health expert to understand this.

    Can the words of the Police Chief and Sheriff can be trusted?

    It’s not hard to identify law enforcers around the nation who use Covid-related executive orders to continue a familiar pattern of abuse. Let’s hope it won’t happen in Albany or Linn County.

  4. James Engel says:

    Could we be marching towards “1984” with these measures? Maybe so if we lived today in Communist China or Russia. By 2030 we just might be in the land of Amerika! When government controls who you can meet or associate with…that’s communism at it’s worst.

    Adriana, it’s proper name should be…the Chinese Communist COVID. That’s where it started & they are to blame!

  5. Cherita Wilson says:

    Thank you for reporting! I appreciate the fact that our law enforcement all understand that just becuase the Govenor says it, doesn’t mean it is so…. this sad attempt to shut us all away even more is absolutely too far…I have no problem following mandates that make sense, and so do our law enforcement agencies. But for the Govenor to ACTUALLY expect fines and arrests is borderline communism, and stinks of domestic terrorism. Yep. I SAID it….

  6. Lundy says:

    One complicating factor, among multiple, throughout the pandemic is the disease’s perceived danger: It’s way more grave than some think, and way less grave than others think. I wish our attempts at societal protection could be much more surgical, targeting those who are or who feel most at risk without inflicting massive damage on the economic well-being of virtually everyone. I don’t want the vulnerable to become seriously ill or worse and I also don’t the suffering associated with massive job losses, etc.

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “They [Linn County officials] sound as though they trust citizens to be smart enough to take measures on their own — masks, distancing, staying home when possible, no parties or group sessions, and so forth.”

    Obviously, that has worked very-well well in the past…

    “It’s up to citizens to prove them right.”

    If the past is any predictor, don’t bet on it…

    • Lundy says:

      Ray, in a free society, don’t you have to give people some liberty to possibly make mistakes with their personal decision making rather than relying on government officials to make decisions for everyone?

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        As long as those “mistakes” don’t endanger others, of course. That said, reality bites… “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” [ https://bit.ly/337jg61 ]

      • Sonamata says:

        “This arm is my arm (and my wife’s), it is not yours. Up here I have a right to strike out with it as I please. I go over there with these gentlemen and swing my arm and exercise the natural right which you have granted; I hit one man on the nose, another under the ear, and as I go down the stairs on my head, I cry out:

        “Is not this a free country?”

        “Yes, sir.”

        “Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

        “Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

        Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.”

  8. sonamata says:

    Conservatives now demanding that protestors be allowed to break the law, and cheering the LCSO and APD when their approach is aligned with “leftist” police reform recommendations — keep people out of jail during the pandemic, avoid community policing (which disproportionately impacts marginalized groups), and educate instead of inflicting punitive punishment (which doesn’t increase public safety). I guess if you frame it the right way, you can normalize anything.

  9. HowlingCicada says:

    No politics. Just a useful, very simple, fast-loading, state-by-state map of “Case Rate Reported to the CDC in the Last 7 Days.” Scroll down for the map, further down for a table of states in order. Mouse-over the map for useful details (clicking will take you to each state’s website).



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