Florida Sheriff Promises Jail, Not Shelter, For Some Irma Evacuees

The sheriff tweeted that authorities would be checking identification at shelters, prompting widespread concern for the undocumented and those with outstanding warrants.

Men drill holes in wall of store surrounded by metal window coverings.

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."

“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.

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

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