Department Policy Is To Refer COVID-19 Matters To Code Enforcement, County, Which May or May Not Follow Up
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — An unauthorized massive event near Mizner Park Sunday morning served as a reminder to the Boca Raton community. The executive order requiring facial coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is apparently optional.
Police shut down the event which you can read more about through a link below. But when BocaNewsNow.com asked whether there were COVID-19 issues from people not wearing masks, Boca Raton Police referred us to Boca Raton City Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement wouldn’t answer anything, first putting us into an officer’s voicemail, then referring us to the City of Boca Raton spokesperson, Chrissy Gibson.
Gibson, quite nicely, explained that Boca Raton is handling COVID-19 issues like this: Police mitigate the problem (i.e. break up a crowd), then refer the situation to Code Enforcement, which in turn refers it to Palm Beach County’s COVID Education and Compliance Team — the CECT. The team, which is working the entire county, may or may not do anything about it at some point.
To put it another way: Police see a crime or violation being committed but call someone else who then calls someone else. It’s whisper down the lane, COVID-19 edition.
We are huge fans of the Boca Raton Police Department but question how officers who have the power and duty to keep people safe could possibly look the other way — as a matter of policy — when they see things that aren’t keeping people safe. The power of a $25 ticket could make major impact.
We have received countless reports over several months of Boca Raton residents calling the police department to ask for assistance when customers are maskless or other COVID-19 issues are taking place. While we can not confirm the truthfulness of every report we’ve received, the story always ends the same way. Dispatchers apparently tell callers that the police aren’t handling COVID issues, and that the caller needs to call 561-24COVID which is Palm Beach County’s COVID compliance “hotline.”
We want to be clear in our criticism: It is not necessarily the police department’s decision — and there are similar policies in place in Delray Beach and other municipalties. While we have no such knowledge, it is certainly possible that the City Manager instructed Boca PD to ignore COVID violations. But the runaround BocaNewsNow.com received Monday morning speaks volumes. It makes us wonder if the infection and death count could have been lower in Palm Beach County if local law enforcement took action when the maskless were seen, instead of phoning a friend.
The death count in Palm Beach County is now 1,196. The infection count is 44,025. We wonder what those numbers would be if speeding enforcement officers became COVID enforcement officers for a week.
Sadly, the families of the 1,196 dead will never know.
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