AUGUSTA – Mainers were understandably concerned about Governor Janet Mills’ stay at home order announced earlier this week. For some, the threat of a $1,000 fine or six months in jail seemed excessive. For others, the restrictions, deemed necessary by Gov. Mills to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, were too restrictive. Now, the Maine State Police, Governor Janet Mills’ primary law enforcement agency, have made a statement on how they will enforce Mills’ order.
In a statement posted to Facebook from Maine State Police Headquarters, they say they look forward to smiling and waving as people go about their days, assuming they are in compliance.
“Our Troopers will be visible on normal patrol and will be responding to emergency calls for service just like we would at any other time. We will assume that people we encounter are following the orders and have an essential need for travel. We will smile and wave as we see them out walking to get some fresh air. In order to maintain order and public safety during this State of Civil Emergency we will continue to respond to complaints and investigate crime, enforcing all laws to include the Governor’s Executive Order,” says the statement.
Exercising “discretion and compassion” will be the primary goal of troopers.
“Our Troopers will exercise discretion and compassion as we always do, considering the totality of the circumstances in deciding the most reasonable and appropriate enforcement action. With our goal being voluntary compliance, we hope and believe that communication and education regarding legal, safe practices outlined in the Executive Order will suffice. Issuing summonses or making physical arrests would be our last course of action and reserved for only the most egregious violators. Our hope is that the public will abide by the Executive Order and not put our officers in the position of having to enforce the law.”
While troopers will not be looking to stop and question people in a systematic fashion, they say Mainers can expect them to ask questions to verify compliance with Mills’ order.
“The Maine State Police will not be randomly stopping people simply to verify compliance. However, there will be times when our Troopers will be in contact with members of the public during normal law enforcement operations and may ask questions to ensure compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order.”
In line with what virtually all other public safety and health officials are saying, the MSP are urging people to stay home and stay safe to help “flatten the curve” and save lives as Maine begins dealing with the wide spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Please do your part to stay apart. It will help flatten the curve to a level where medical heroes can safely take care of all of Maine’s citizens. There is no better way to fight this public safety challenge. It is the right thing for all of us to do together.”
On Wednesday, Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols made clear that his office would “not be setting up a police state” in a widely distributed public statement.