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Racine County sheriff won’t enforce ‘Safer at Home’ order

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RACINE (WKOW) -- Racine County's sheriff says he won't enforce the governor's 'Safer at Home' order.

Sheriff Christopher Schmaling released a statement saying it violates the constitutional rights of the community and businesses. The governor extended his order through late May.

Racine County has reported more than 160 confirmed coronavirus cases and eight deaths.

"Wisconsin law gives the Governor and the Wisconsin DHS the authority to develop emergency measures and enforce rules and orders to protect the public during a health crisis. However, state law does not have the power to supersede or suspend the Constitutional rights of American citizens," WISN-TV reports Schmaling said in his statement.

"I urge the Wisconsin DHS to develop a workable plan that balances the safety of our citizens while at the same time acknowledging the fact that there is a way for business to operate even during the current health situation," Schmaling said. "I have all the confidence in Racine County business owners that they can make the appropriate adjustments in the way they operate during this difficult time to accommodate for the safety of their employees and guests."

"The overreaching measures taken by State government will have dire lifetime consequences for businesses, homeowners, and families. I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens and I can not in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution," Schmaling's statement said.

"Wisconsin law gives the authority and the responsibility for investigating and enforcing public health violations to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and local health departments. We will leave the enforcement of public health orders to the health department experts," Schmaling said.

"It is important that we stay focused on our obligations and responsibilities to those areas of the law that we are charged with enforcing. We have and will continue to concentrate our resources and efforts at keeping our roads safe and protecting our citizens from criminal activity," said Schmaling.

"COVID-19 isn’t going to go away any time soon. I strongly encourage all of us to start thinking of our new 'normal' way of doing business. Let’s get Racine County back on its feet again and move ahead. I understand the seriousness of the current health situation and I urge all Racine County citizens to continue to be responsible and to follow the social distancing, mask and hygiene recommendations of the CDC and the Wisconsin DHS. Let’s continue to look out for our neighbors and those less fortunate around us. Brighter days are ahead," Schmaling said in his statement.

The governor's office did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the sheriff's statement.