Contributed by SHERIFF JOHN B. SPEARS
Vernon County Sheriff
Recently Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released his “Safer at Home Order” to the people of Wisconsin in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Law enforcement leaders have been working throughout Vernon County to ensure everyone’s safety regarding the order.
The sheriff’s office has been diligently trying to interpret what the order means to citizens of Vernon County. Numerous inquiries are coming into the sheriff’s office seeking guidance on what this order means to them. Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers at this time as we were given the order at the same time all of you received it and are still working actively to fully understand the intended scope. I want to take a moment to share my thoughts.
My belief and leadership that I share with my staff is as follows: “The Vernon County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to providing a safe and secure community through partnerships that build trust, proactively reduce crime/recidivism, minimize victimization and enhance the quality of life while protecting constitutional guarantees.”
During these difficult and unprecedented times, some of our individual rights are certainly being restricted. These rights are being restricted at the recommendation of medical health professionals for the greater good of all so that others may live. This is a community effort that requires collaboration and cooperation from all.
I ask the people of Vernon County to voluntarily comply with the “Safer at Home” order issued by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers so that together we can get through these difficult times. I understand and appreciate the great personal sacrifices being made to accomplish this by all of you. I have a very difficult time with this concept as I sit at my desk and stare at my copy of the United States Constitution, as it represents the foundation of our country. Our Constitution is not a document that gives us rights, but preserves our rights.
As your sheriff, I want to assure all of you that the words of my leadership matters. All staff at the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office are committed and dedicated to protecting your Constitutional rights and guarantees. This order from Gov. Evers has not suspended the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin. We are not under “martial law.” You will not be stopped without reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law has occurred. This is the same standard that existed prior to this order. You will not be detained or questioned as to why you are leaving your house or questioned if the purpose of your travels falls under the essential-travel portion of the order.
The sheriff’s office will investigate and take enforcement action on blatant violations of this order that put our community at great risk. We are asking for a voluntary compliance with this order so we can readily reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and defeat the virus.
I want to personally thank the citizens of Vernon County for your compliance, understanding, and the sacrifices that all of you are making. Like other law enforcement agencies, we have had to change how we operate during this pandemic. I want to assure all citizens that your sheriff’s office is here to serve you and ready to protect you.
Sheriff Spears wants to thank Sheriff Martin R. Schulteis of Washington County for offering to share. His thoughts and thoughts of many sheriffs across Wisconsin.