Education is the focus of current enforcement efforts of San Juan Basin Public Health’s Safer La Plata order that delays most nonessential business openings in La Plata County until May 8.
“The first course of action is education,” said Durango Police Department Chief Bob Brammer, in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Of course, it is a governmental order. There are statutory consequences if businesses fail to comply, but the first course of action is education.”
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith said deputies will concentrate on educating noncompliant businesses about SJBPH’s order. The policy focusing on education was adopted in consultation with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, county attorneys, city attorneys, elected officials and other law enforcement agencies. The agencies meet three times weekly as part of a local policymakers’ group that has now moved meetings to Zoom.
“I can tell you Monday was one of our longer meetings,” Smith said.
Deputies will go to businesses to provide information about Safer La Plata on a “complaint-driven process,” Smith said.
Flyers have been given to deputies to inform noncompliant businesses about proper dates when they are allowed to operate, and civil and criminal penalties that could result if they remain open, he said.
The enforcement policy emphasizing education is similar to what deputies did under Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ earlier order called “stay at home.” He was aware of only two incidents, early on during the stay-at-home order in which deputies went to noncompliant businesses to provide educational information and to inform them they should close.
Brammer and Smith both noted noncompliant businesses could face civil and even criminal penalties if they continue to operate in violation of the SJBPH public health order.
Smith said if a business remained open after knowingly violating the Safer La Plata order, it could face civil penalties from its state licensing agency and eventually even criminal penalties if noncompliance continued.
“If we can’t get compliance, the business could face civil action. It could face revocation of its state license. Criminal action would be a last resort,” he said.