Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida, raised the hackles of compassionate citizens when he tweeted on Wednesday that law enforcement would be stationed at facilities open to those seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma and checking identification.
"If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant," he wrote, "we'll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail."
If you have a warrant, turn yourself in to the jail - it's a secure shelter https://t.co/UFNGNafJh8— Polk County Sheriff (@PolkCoSheriff) September 6, 2017
If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed— Polk County Sheriff (@PolkCoSheriff) September 6, 2017
We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period. https://t.co/DlhqjqFrkM— Polk County Sheriff (@PolkCoSheriff) September 6, 2017
“Officers are legally obligated to take a person into custody if they have a warrant,” a spokesperson for the sheriff told the Orlando Sentinel.
However, others have pointed out that this could dissuade undocumented immigrants and those with drug or traffic charges from seeking safety. The danger this presents to people's lives, regardless of their offenses, is the antithesis of what law enforcement officers are sworn into service for.
No one wants a lawless state, or a police state...but this is nuts for a Sheriff to post. https://t.co/ynrhT20svX— Aaron 🚀 (@Peekaso) September 6, 2017
This is shameful. Discouraging people from seeking shelter in the path of this storm is unconscionable and burdens rescuers later. https://t.co/Sc6Au45Ius— Gabe Gonzalez (@gaybonez) September 6, 2017
Discouraging people from seeking shelter. Some of whom surely have innocent children. https://t.co/pVXryuMycP— Coastalhugsbuddie (@lizbuddie) September 6, 2017
So when undocumented people see this and are scared that you will deport them, know if they die their blood is on your hands. https://t.co/8Xk08j5AL1— Ian McDonald (@iMac1975) September 6, 2017
GOOD GOD. This is monstrous. People are going to DIE rather than go to a shelter. https://t.co/71vGDt1CmR— Cameron Satterfield (@CJSatter) September 6, 2017
Imagine thinking youre tough for threatening people trying to not die in the biggest hurricane ever because they have unpaid parking tickets https://t.co/yIpmgoadeb— ''Dr.'' Ryface (@Ryface) September 6, 2017
Too bad there isn't a natural disaster every week to do your job for you— Abram Garcia (@abram913) September 6, 2017
oh, very convincing save, sheriff.— Johnny McNulty (@JohnnyMcNulty) September 6, 2017
"I'm not intimidating people with tickets or bench warrants! My county is crawling in pedos, you see."
Sex offenders don't necessarily have outstanding warrants— Adam Schrader (@Schrader_Adam) September 6, 2017
One Twitter user pointed the relief effort after Harvey by both authorities and volunteers was an excellent and very recent example for Judd to look to for moral inspiration and professional guidance.
When the world is blowing down in a catastrophic storm, that certainly doesn't mean that officers should halt their jobs. However, it does beg a shift in priorities. Exploiting a natural disaster to go after people at their most vulnerable risks the lives of good people and just puts Judd and his deputies on the same level as the worst of those who they're trying to arrest.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters photographer Carlos Barria