by Kimberly Rivers

On Friday, Nov. 20, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO) issued a statement that officers would not be “actively enforcing” the state’s stay-at-home order that goes into effect on Saturday, Nov. 21, but will respond to specific complaints received. 

“It’s problematic, it’s untenable…There is no legal justification or mechanism for how it should be enforced,” said Eric Buschow, Captain with the VCSO. He clarified that while officers will not be actively looking for people out after the de facto curfew times, they will respond to complaints, particularly related to gatherings, which is what the order is aimed at curtailing. 

Statement issued via Twitter at 9:46 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, in response to the state’s stay-at-home order issued Nov. 19.

If called to a large gathering within the stated time frame (10 p.m.-5 a.m.), similar to a disturbance or noise violation call, Buschow said officers are instructed to “tell them about the order and to break up the party, and we hope people will comply.” He said they will respond to “specific complaint-driven situations” and that “the point of our stance is that we are not going to direct deputies” to stop people who are out and “question [them] about why they are out. The order is extremely vague and… there are constitutional implications.” 

Buschow said the vague nature of the order puts law enforcement in a difficult situation involving the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that relates to illegal search and seizure. 

“We can’t just stop [a person] for no reason,” he said, pointing out that the order has many exceptions for who is allowed to be out, making enforcement even more complicated. 

Buschow added that the VCSO would not be seeking further clarification from the state on enforcement guidance. 

“At the end of the day we are the ones wearing the uniform…and have to answer for the actions we take,” Buschow stated, while recognizing the need to curtail large gatherings. “We all need to look out for each other,” and not create situations that will spread the virus. 

View the full stay at home order online HERE.