Police Use Discretion to Enforce Murphy’s Emergency Orders
New Jersey law enforcement tasked with enforcing Gov. Phil Murphy's social-distancing executive orders are approaching the matter in different ways depending on the circumstance.
Dozens of people and businesses have been arrested, ordered closed or fine for violating rules restricting gatherings and shutting down non-essential business.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has increased the penalties for such offenses and instructed departments to issue summons to everyone who shows up at a gathering, not just the organizer or property owner.
Seaside Heights Police Chief Tommy Boyd said while it's his duty to carry out the orders of Murphy, who he called "my boss" and the "head law enforcement for the state of New Jersey," his department has to sometimes give people the benefit of the doubt.
Despite the boardwalk being closed and patrolled by an officer and security cameras, sometimes a person will wind up there.
"We're being nice to people because you have to understand people are going stir-crazy. Now that they shut down the county parks and state parks, people need a place to go so you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. We're not looking to give tickets or anything. We want to keep people safe," Boyd told the Townsquare News Network.
A home gathering or party is a different story, according to Boyd.
"They're going blatantly against the governor and the attorney general and the state of New Jersey," Boyd said. "If we go to a house and there is a party going on, the person who owns the house will be written and the people inside the house will be written summons for disorderly conduct. There's different statutes under the state of emergency that the attorney general wants adhered to," Boyd said.
Voorhees Police Capt. Carmen Del Palazzo does not think putting local police in charge of enforcing the emergency order has affected the relationship between the community and officers.
"Most people realize the seriousness of what's going on and understand if they take the risk and they go out to a park and they see an officer come up, they're going to realize, 'I wasn't supposed to do this,'" Del Palazzo said.
He also compared enforcing the emergency to a traffic stop.
"Every stop we don't want to write up someone. We don't want to write up a ticket. We're using discretion. We found that most people are very compliant and we haven't had any issues in our parks or calls for parties," Del Palazzo said.
The department has also set up a task force during the to identify residents who are in need of food, medication and other basic needs but can't leave their home.
The department re-assigned officers who were assigned to schools to check on the 350 residents who signed themselves up or were signed up by a neighbor, according to Del Palazzo. Chaplains are helping to coordinate the deliveries.