Want to visit grandma’s house during Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s continued “stay at home” orders? You’re fine. Want to willfully defy those orders and put other people’s lives at risk? There might be consequences.
Tuesday morning, Milwaukee’s Public Safety and Health Committee, as well as the full Common Council, approved an ordinance “relating to enforcement of communicable disease orders” that “authorizes the commissioner of health and police officers to issue orders and citations to any persons who willfully violate or obstruct the execution of an order issued under ch. 62 of the [Milwaukee Code of Ordinances] or ch. 252 of the [Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations].”
“This is an ordinance that provides the proverbial tool in the tool belt,” Milwaukee Police Department Chief of Staff Nick DeSiato said during the Public Safety and Health Committee meeting. “It does not affect the range of options for law enforcement for enforcing the ‘Safer At Home’-related orders related to COVID-19. On one side of the spectrum, there’s still the education piece. On the other end of the spectrum, there is the arrest piece in pursuing criminal charges.
“It’s an unclassified misdemeanor, to be non-compliant with a health order under Chapter 252,” DeSiato continued. “What this does is allows a middle ground for citations to be issued. We just need to adopt the statute to allow law enforcement to have that option.”
DeSiato described the ordinance’s dual citation and criminal charge elements as “akin to something like disorderly conduct.” He said it “isn’t unique to law enforcement to have both a civil forfeiture option as well as a criminal option.”
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis added an amendment to the ordinance. It states, in part, that “the City of Milwaukee, in its efforts to ensure compliance with the State of Wisconsin’s ‘Safer At Home’ order, wishes to maintain a full range of enforcement options, from education to arrest.”
“I don’t want us to look like Brookfield, and then the narrative is that they get to do whatever they want and we’re targeting the minority community,” Lewis said. “That’s why I am submitting this simple amendment.”
Speaking of Brookfield, Lewis had some words for folks who protested Gov. Evers’ “Safer At Home” order in Brookfield last weekend, as well as those who plan to protest in Madison this weekend.
“I feel as though we have a warning out, and now the people who choose to ignore that warning, there should be some level of consequence,” Lewis said. “As we’ve seen in Brookfield, as we see in Madison, if those folks decide that they want to protest and come out and just say, forget that, we’re going to put everybody’s lives at risk, there should be some measures where police officers have the ability to take it a step further and issue arrests for those who are putting us all in jeopardy.
“There’s a difference when you are going over to your grandmother’s house to check on her,” Lewis continued. “There’s a difference when you’re going over to your ailing family member’s home to check on them. You should not be arrested. But if you are deliberately putting people’s lives at risk because you think you’re smarter than the health officials, smarter than the scientists, then guess what, there should be some definite repercussions for you.”
Here’s the text of the ordinance:
A substitute ordinance relating to enforcement of communicable disease orders.
This ordinance authorizes the commissioner of health and police officers to issue orders and citations to any persons who willfully violate or obstruct the execution of an order issued under ch. 62 of the code or ch. 252, Wis. Stats. It further provides a forfeiture of $500 for violating this ordinance.
The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Milwaukee do ordain as follows:
Part 1. Section 62-10 of the code is created to read:
62-10. Violation or Obstruction of Orders.
The commissioner and any police officer are authorized to issue orders and citations to any persons who willfully violate or obstruct the execution of an order issued under this chapter or ch. 252, Wis. Stats.
Part 2. Section 62-19 of the code is amended to read:
Any person who violates a section listed in column A shall be liable on conviction to the penalties for the class of violations listed in column B and described in ch. 61:
62-7-1 Class F
62-7-2 Class C
62-7-3 Class F
62-9-5 Class F
>>62-10 Class L<<
62-11 Class E
62-13 Class E
62-17 Class A