MORRIS, IL — Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley announced Wednesday that his deputies will not patrol communities across the county looking to fine or arrest people for gathering in large groups to celebrate graduations or wedding receptions.
Additionally, Briley said his deputies will not target small local businesses that may be violating the governor's orders relating to social distancing.
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"People have called asking for permission and or guidance on what they can and can't do and what will happen if they exercise their constitutional rights," Briley wrote in a two-page letter posted Wednesday on Grundy County's Sheriff's Office Facebook page.
The sheriff said people are asking if they will be fined or arrested if they violate Gov. J.B. Pritzker's orders related to the new coronavirus pandemic.
"Will the sheriff's office stop them if they deviate from the Governor's Executive Order?" Briley wrote. "The short answer is no, however, please remember a business has the right to make decisions regarding masks and COVID-19 related requirements."
Briley said it is his belief that Grundy County should not be lumped into the governor's stay-at-home regional map with Cook County, which has had the most coronavirus cases and deaths of all counties in Illinois.
"We are a rural community who believes in freedom, the rule of law, and support the Constitution," Briley stated. "With that said, you can absolutely count on the sheriff's office to do just that, as we take our solemn oath to defend the Constitution very seriously.
"Kids are graduating from school, leaving for military service, and parents and family members want to celebrate those graduations and have family gatherings before their sons or daughters go off to serve our country. Needless to say, people want to live, not just exist."
Briley also asked his constituents to ponder the question, "Do we let our businesses die from worry, fear, panic, wondering when or where our next paycheck is going to come from. Do we give up what was just a few months ago a normal life and replace it with fear and apprehension? Do we as a community accept this as the new normal?"
Briley said he also has received phone calls from business owners asking if they can open their business and, if they do, whether they will be fined or arrested.
"I can assure you the sheriff's office will not arrest or ticket you for trying to make a living. However, since the state of Illinois or local municipalities have the ultimate authority over business license(s), I cannot guarantee your business, liquor or sanitation license won't get suspended or revoked," Briley wrote.
"I have heard the governor say he will do just that if businesses open against his orders. One last thing to consider before you decide to open is, will your insurance company insure you if you open during the declared emergency? Let's hope the governor reconsiders moving Grundy County out of the Cook County map region."
Moreover, Briley said he has spoken with Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland and "he has relayed to me he will not prosecute violations of the governor's executive order."
Lastly, Briley wanted residents to know that he has not released any inmates from the Grundy County Jail "as a result of the pandemic. We are not writing tickets for not maintaining social distance or shutting down graduation parties. We are law enforcement officers, and we will uphold our oath of office by not trampling on your rights as citizens of this great country."