Local law enforcement agencies are focusing on education as they enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Minnesotans can be charged with a misdemeanor for disregarding the order to only leave home for necessities, work in an industry that has been deemed essential, or for a drive or outdoor recreation.
But police officers aren’t allowed to randomly stop vehicles or pedestrians. If they do see evidence of a violation, they say they are most likely to give a warning.
The Mankato Department of Public Safety has not taken any enforcement action but has asked a few groups to disperse and is working with the state to clarify whether some businesses should be open.
“For us it’s all about education,” said Associate Director of Public Safety Dan Schisel.
The department has investigated about 20 potential violations since the order went into effect a week ago.
Most of those investigations involved open businesses. A few businesses were asked to close. Others remain open while officers work to determine whether they are considered essential.
“There is still a lot of gray area,” Schisel said.
Mankato officers also issued warnings to a few groups spotted gathered at city parks. The parks are open, but visitors are not supposed to congregate.
Eagle Lake Police Chief John Kopp said he has noticed fewer vehicles on his roads and more pedestrians and bicyclists out on the roads and trails.
“People are sticking close to home, and they’re being really good about following the order,” he said.
The Eagle Lake department hasn’t even had to give out any warnings, Kopp said. They have received a few calls with questions about what is allowed. The chief said his response is usually pretty simple: Stay home and stay safe if it’s not essential.
Many area law enforcement agencies have issued statements or posted guidance on social media that also focused on education.
A post from the Cleveland Police Department says the officers in the Le Sueur County community will “reserve criminal enforcement for those situations where it is absolutely necessary.”
In a joint statement, Brown County Sheriff Jason Seidl and New Ulm Police Chief David Borchert said their agencies remain focused on their usual activities to deter crime and protect public safety.
“This executive order is certainly part of our responsibilities and will be diligently enforced,” the statement says. “However, law enforcement will be following the same enforcement procedures as in the past, which requires meeting certain levels of proof to execute action.”