Editor's Note: On Thursday, May 21, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott issued a statement titled "Position on the COVID-19 Dilemma" in response to what he says is community backlash related to his stance on ongoing enforcement of Gov. JB Pritzker's mandates regarding public safety. Also, on Wednesday, May 20, the governor withdrew his emergency ruling that threatened a misdemeanor charge on businesses who did not coply with his stay-at-home orders. Read the full statement below.
Position on the COVID-19 Dilemma
Recently people and sometimes organizations have called or emailed me in regards to my stance and thus the DeKalb County Sheriff’s plan of action in regards to violations of the governor’s executive orders. Last week in a radio interview, I shared a synopsis of that plan and apparently stirred things up quite a bit, so I am taking this opportunity to elaborate further for those who want to know.
Several weeks ago, working with my staff in consultation with our excellent State’s Attorney, Rick Amato we developed a path that is focused on working with citizens through direct communication to resolve those COVID-19 situations. Our office does that by responding to a citizen’s concerns/complaints about another citizen’s action. That is nothing new in law enforcement, that is what my deputies do day in and day out and that is what we are doing and will continue to do in this difficult and challenging time. I have often stated that during this COVID-19 period our citizens have been understanding and cooperative, a true reflection of the best of DeKalb County. The Sheriff’s Office handles calls on a case by case basis, balancing safety, fairness, consistency, and compassion.
Many of my fellow Sheriffs have put out public statements in regards to the Governor’s Executive Orders. I have great respect for each of these Sheriff’s and their courage and clarity. If you carefully read these statements along with their strong convictions about “Executive Orders” they also urge their citizens to make sound judgements considering health, family, and other citizens. These Sheriffs do not encourage challenging law enforcement at this time. I do support the stance of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association regarding the Executive Orders, and oppose the effort by the Governor in his latest emergency rule change that in essence makes violation of Health COVID-19 Orders a Class A misdemeanor.
My reluctance to put out a statement, until now, is simply because law enforcement, in particular, the office of Sheriff generally operates on a case by case basis and often not necessarily “by the book”, that flexibility is part of being a professional and taking into account the circumstances and evidence surrounding any situation. Sometimes there are no right answers, just the best answer.
For those few who accuse me of no “backbone” or for failure to live up to my oath and recognizing the constitutional obligation of the Office of Sheriff, I say you do not know me, or my office very well. I love the Office of Sheriff and honor the oath. I have taught the responsibilities and uniqueness of the office to other sheriff’s in Illinois and from across the nation. My personal feelings about the governor and his strategy are irrelevant. What I do as your County Sheriff is relevant, judge me on what I have done, and what I do, not on some hypothetical situation.
I respect the Office of Governor but the Governors Executive Orders are his responsibility, not mine. I do work closely with our fine State’s Attorney’s Office and our knowledgeable and dedicated County Health Department under the positive leadership of Administrator, Lisa Gonzalez. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office will assist the Health Department as required, but the extent of that assistance will be determined by the situation, by me and those who work with me, not by the governor or anyone else.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office barring unimaginable circumstances, will not shut down houses of worship, arrest church leaders, interrupt services of any denomination. We will not arrest people for not wearing masks, it is neither practical or legal. We will respond to calls for service and do reports on complaints as appropriate.
My most recent phone call was from a woman who is blind, and had heard the Sheriff was in charge and wanted me to do what I could to “open up the county” and also to get the Secretary of State to reopen the “Talking Books” distribution program that has been halted since February. I told her the Sheriff is not in charge of anything except the Sheriff’s Office. We had a wonderful conversation. I have her number if the Governor or Secretary of State would like it. I think she and others in her or similar situations deserve to be heard.
My greatest privilege is to be the elected Sheriff of DeKalb County and to be part of law enforcement in this great republic. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office does uphold the constitution of the United States, and the State of Illinois. My personal guidance and motivation stems from the scripture Roman 13:4 which states in regards to law enforcement, “For he is God’s minister to you for good… and does not bear the sword in vain.” This is my inspiration and is my pledge.
We will get through this together,
Sheriff Roger Scott