The ACLU of Illinois called on law enforcement agencies across the state to avoid using widespread arrests to enforce Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency stay-at-home order.
As some communities have ramped up police enforcement of the stay-at-home order, the ACLU of Illinois asked police to take a step back.
The nonprofit group reminded law enforcement agencies across Illinois that their role was to build voluntary compliance with the order rather than use it to make mass arrests.
ACLU attorney Rachel Murphy said during a pandemic, it was a safety issue not only for the public, but for police officers.
“All of our energies now must be targeted at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and acting in accordance with appropriate public health recommendations,” Murphy said. “Police should be limiting the number of contacts they have with members of the public, limiting the number of arrests that they are making and really only taking people into custody as a last resort.”
The call comes as officials struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons. On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order to grant medically vulnerable people furloughs from prisons during the COVID-19 emergency. Public health officials have reported at least two deaths at Stateville Correctional Center. About 100 other inmates and staff members at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Some communities have implemented fines for gatherings of 10 or more people.
John Fermon, public information officer for the Bloomington Police Department, said gatherings have been minimal and usually involved a pick-up basketball game at a park.
“When the officers respond, they educate and I would say 100 percent of the time we get voluntary compliance,” Fermon said.
Since the stay-at-home order went into effect on March 20, Fermon said police calls have dropped by 40 to 50 percent.
Criminal charges have been reported in other parts of the state.
In Alton, police broke up the party at a local bar at 1 a.m. Sunday and filed a criminal complaint of reckless conduct against each person there for violating the stay-at-home order, the Telegraph reported. The mayor’s wife was among those at the party, according to a statement from the mayor.
There were also reports of two parties near Quincy.
Pritzker said Tuesday that he has not encouraged arrests, but said enforcement was up to local law enforcement agencies. He said some municipalities had passed their own ordinances and emergency rules.
“We’re asking people to do the right thing – and most people, the vast majority of people are doing the right thing,” the governor said. “But if people are encouraging others to get together in groups of more than 10 or to not socially distance … I think at some point it is worthy of considering a real consequence.”