With the onset of the coronavirus, first responders are taking extra precautions in anticipation of dealing with patients stricken with the virus. York Daily Record
Contrary to rumors, police are not pulling drivers over without probable cause, just to ask them where they are coming from/going to.
Police officials in southcentral Pennsylvania, including York County, say they are not pulling over vehicles solely to enforce Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, contrary to rumors circulating since the order was introduced.
Wolf’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus now covers 33 counties, including York, Franklin, Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin and Cumberland. Seven of those counties, including Franklin and Lebanon, were just added to the order Tuesday and were scheduled to take effect 8 p.m. that night.
Police chiefs of major departments in Lebanon and Franklin said beforehand that if the order eventually included them, they did not expect to stop drivers for the order alone.
Public confusion over Wolf’s order may stem from its wording, which states in part, “Enforcement of this Order will commence at 8:00 PM on Monday, March 23, 2020,” but does clarify what “enforcement” entails.
A tweet from the governor’s official Twitter account stated Tuesday, “Residents of these counties MUST stay home, except for certain approved activities.”
Those approved activities include trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, caring for another family member or pet and visiting a medical office.
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Dispelling the rumors
“We are aware of the rumors out there; we see rumors online and people tweet at us they were pulled over,” Pennsylvania State Police Spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said Monday. “The roads are open, there aren’t checkpoints.”
Trooper Kelly Osborne, who is also an agency spokeswoman, said troopers make traffic stops based on probable cause of a violation, however, “During contact with the operator, it is common for members to ask where they are traveling to or from.”
This appears to parallel a memo from state police to municipal departments last week, according to West York Borough Police Chief Matt Millsaps.
“They have said that the mere act of driving on the roadways during a shelter-in-place does not replace probable cause for making a stop,” he said Tuesday.
Derek Hartman, public information officer for York City Police Department, also said he had caught wind of rumors about arbitrary traffic stops.
“I’ve heard that rumor; it’s not happening here, I’ll put it that way,” he said. “To pull people over randomly to ask them where they are going, that’s not a practice that we’ve started.”
Franklin and Lebanon counties added to order
As of Tuesday night, Wolf’s stay-at-home order now includes Franklin and Lebanon counties.
Ron Camacho, chief of the Chambersburg Police Department, said Tuesday his officers would not abandon probable cause in pulling over drivers.
“We would not be proactive in pulling people over to ascertain their status,” he said.
City of Lebanon Police Chief Todd Breiner had a similar response on Tuesday.
“I don’t anticipate the lack of probable cause to stop vehicles in the future,” he said.
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