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Fresno County sheriff won't enforce lockdown, busy re-arresting criminals released due to California's zero-bail policy


'We don't ask if they're "essential," we've got our hands full trying to re-arrest people that are released due to zero-dollar bail'

Mark Crosse/Fresno Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The sheriff of Fresno County said that she wouldn't enforce California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said her department wouldn't harass the public who are violating lockdown orders. Mims said she is busy re-arresting criminals released on California's zero-bail policy.

Sheriff Mims appeared on "The Trevor Carey Show" on Tuesday to give an update on how she is policing Fresno County during the coronavirus pandemic. The sheriff said commercial burglaries have increased and domestic violence cases were up 72% in the first week and a half of the shelter-in-place order.

"It's time to start easing up on the shelter-in-place. It's time to reopen," Mims said. "Unfortunately, the governor's plans on what it takes on reopening are very, very strict. It's very hard to meet the criteria."

Mims was asked if she would enforce Newsom's shelter-in-place order, and she responded, "We've asked for voluntary compliance. I've heard multiple sheriffs around the nation state they will not enforce their governors' shelter-in-place orders."

When asked if that was her position, Mims answered, "That is my position. We do not stop the public to find out what they're doing when they're not sheltering in place."

"We don't ask those questions, we don't ask if they're 'essential.' We've got our hands full trying to re-arrest people that are released due to zero-dollar bail," Mims said.

The California Judicial Council passed the zero-dollar bail unanimously. The statewide rule means that most misdemeanor and lower-level felonies have a bail amount of $0. Bail remains for people held for most violent crimes, including charges of sexual assault, gun crimes, domestic violence, or people under court-order restraining orders. This is an effort to lower the inmate population in jails to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"One of the offenses that is not considered violent or serious is assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury," Mims said. "That's not a qualifying offense; somebody like that gets out on a $0 bail."

Tony Botti, the Sheriff's Office spokesman, told GVWire that 711 Fresno County suspects had received zero-dollar bail since the policy was enacted on April 6. Nearly 12.5% of those zero-dollar bail recipients have been re-arrested.

Other sheriffs in California agree with Mims. San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia also said he wouldn't enforce lockdown orders and that the zero-bail policy is a problem for law enforcement.

"I don't know how any police chief in this county, could look at their community in the face and say, 'While people are being released out of jails on zero bail, serious criminals, that now we're going to stop people from holding signs, driving around, and wishing individuals happy birthdays or happy graduations.' I certainly can't look at my community credibly and tell them that," Garcia said.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said he would not enforce lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

"From the beginning, I told you that I would not be enforcing this stay-at-home order, partly because I trusted our residents' ability to do the right thing without the fear of being arrested," Bianco said. "I knew that they could be trusted to act as responsible adults, and I was correct."

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