California sheriff refuses to enforce stay-at-home orders: It 'doesn't pass 'constitutional test'

Don Barnes hits politicians for repeatedly changing the rules

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A California sheriff said Monday he is not enforcing coronavirus related stay-at-home orders because they do not pass the "constitutional test."

“It’s been a long year for everybody. We know that," Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told “Fox & Friends" on Monday. "It’s been very impactful upon all of the businesses and residents of Orange County and California. But I just don’t think that it’s something that falls in line with law enforcement priority."

“We have many other responsibilities that we are dealing with ... homelessness, substance use disorder. It's not only unfair to law enforcement but I don’t think it’s fair and stands the constitutional test,” Barnes said.

Barnes said police are noticing the businesses operating are “meeting expectations of the state” in terms of coronavirus protocols. Barnes also said the “goalposts keep moving by the week.” He made reference to Angela Marsden, the Los Angeles bar owner who went viral last week after she slammed California's double standards for her and the movie industry.

“I heard the story that you mentioned earlier about Los Angeles where a lady had a tent, she had been operating it right in her parking lot. There is a tent for several hundred people that they get to operate, she cannot. I don’t know how you can have disparaged rules and expect people to follow them. If they follow those, they are in essence putting themselves out of business, their livelihood is gone," Barnes said.

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Barnes said Saturday his department would not be enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new restrictive coronavirus lockdown order, which is set to take effect Sunday in the southern part of the state as well as the San Joaquin Valley, south of Sacramento. 

Newsom warned last week that the order, which bans indoor dining at restaurants and closes bars and hair salons, would trigger regionally when any section of the state falls below 15% intensive care unit-capacity in hospitals.

“Compliance with health orders is a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement,” Barnes said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will remain consistent in our approach.”

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Barnes said that amid the “defund the police” movement, public officials “keep redefining the way police can operate.”

"I’m not sure that we want to be in a position that law enforcement operating with that mission in mind to go out and arrest lawful residents of the county who are trying to make ends meet and are doing so by following the rules," he said. "The rules can’t change week by week and it’s been difficult for our constituents in Orange County, throughout the state and the nation quite honestly to keep redefining the way we operate.”