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Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal answered a raft of questions again on Thursday during his latest media availability video. Watch it above or see our summary of the Q-&-A below.
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With places opening back up, has the Sheriff’s Office seen an increase in calls for service? Are you seeing more crime, more traffic accidents, etc.? (0:46)
There are more people out and about now, Honsal says, and calls for service have returned to roughly pre-COVID-19 levels.
As the weather gets warmer, has your office had any problems with large outdoor gatherings, and are you concerned about that? (1:33)
The biggest gatherings have been the protests, Honsal says. “That’s been our No. 1 concern about that,” he says. People are going to beaches, rivers and the forests, which is fine.
If a local high school is presenting a graduation ceremony as a religious service, are health and safety rules enforced differently? (2:23)
Churches are allowed to open and don’t require certification from county health officials, “so there can be religious graduations,” Honsal says. The county just encourages attendees to observe social distancing and other health guidelines.
How much coordination has there been between local law enforcement and schools regarding graduation ceremonies and other student-related events? (3:19)
The coordination has been good, Honsal says, with Fortuna, McKinleyville and Arcata high schools all coordinating with his office. Eureka High is looking to July for a possible in-person ceremony. “People are trying to be innovative,” Honsal says.
Are citations being issued to people not wearing facial coverings? (4:20)
No citations have been given yet. “It’s mostly about education,” Honsal says. He encourages people not to point fingers at those not wearing masks, since some people have disabilities that prevent them from wearing them.
Anecdotally, anti-mask residents are taking advantage of that loophole, claiming they have medical conditions as an excuse not to wear facial coverings. Are these claims taken at their word? (5:28)
“Claims are taken at their word,” Honsal says, just like someone who claims their dog is a service dog. “So if someone is choosing not to mask because of a medical condition — and they claim that — that’s gonna be good enough for us.”
With law enforcement facing extreme pressure not only from new procedures due to COVID but also vigorous outcry against police procedures and violence from some officers, which must leave staff feeling their integrity is being attacked, how are you finding ways to ease the stress on your people? (6:32)
“The vast majority of the citizens appreciate us … ,” Honsal says. “People are giving us cards, dropping off meals for us, and then also telling us that we’re doing a fantastic job out there.” It’s law enforcement’s job to encounter people on their worst days, he says. “We want to prove to our own community — and California and the United States — that law enforcement officers are here to protect and are here to serve, and we can do it with distinction and integrity throughout.”