Many Arizona Law Enforcement Agencies Won’t Enforce Ducey’s Curfew Without Cause

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannells | Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot

Governor Doug Ducey’s week-long, statewide curfew order prompted by riots, criminal damage, and physical assaults in some parts of Arizona caused much confusion among law enforcement officials on Sunday, leading several agencies to issue statements clarifying when -and if- it would be enforced.

The 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew order set to run until June 8 allows individuals to travel on public streets for activities such as employment, worship, shopping, medical and veterinarian care, and patronizing private businesses. But it prohibits all persons from “using, standing, sitting, traveling or being present on any public street or in any public place” during those hours unless engaged in exempted activities.

The order’s list of exempted activities does not include peaceable social gatherings or participating in First Amendment conduct in public places such as roads, sidewalks, and parks.

In response, the sheriffs of Cochise County and Yuma County released statements telling residents the order would not be enforced in those counties unless needed in response to specific problems.

“The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the Curfew Order unless there is a need to enforce it, such as the event of a riot,” according to a statement issued by Lt. Samuel Pavlak on behalf of Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot. “The Sheriff’s Office recognizes there have been peaceful protests within our community and those participants are encouraged to continue to remain civil while expressing their rights.”

In Cochise County, Sheriff Mark Dannels says he reached out to Ducey’s office on Sunday after the order was announced and residents “lit up” the dispatch lines with questions. He then worked closely with the police chiefs in his county “to get a shared message out to our citizens to calm and clarify.”

That message makes it clear that while residents can go about their daily activities and businesses may remain open during the curfew, the governor’s emergency declaration will be enforced for anyone “attempting to create distractions and/or engage in criminal activity.”

Several other public statements about the curfew were issued by law enforcement agencies across Arizona, including Chief Robert Martin of the Snowflake Taylor Police Department, who took to social media to explain his officers would not be enforcing the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew “unless given a reason to do so.”

On his personal and department Facebook pages, Martin noted “if you are not part of a protest that has become unruly or are participating in civil unrest, this order does not apply to you. Go about your daily lives and activities and enjoy our beautiful weather and evenings.”

In Apache County, a similar statement was released by the Springerville Police Department.

“The Springerville Police Department has decided not to enforce (the Order) at this time,” the statement reads. “We feel very strongly that our citizens do not need a curfew. We will only enforce if there is any civil unrest in our town.”

Meanwhile, the City of Sierra Vista issued a statement recognizing the limited curfew order can be a tool to curb violent protesting and rioting experienced in some parts of Arizona, but such activities haven’t taken place in the city.

“Those choosing to protest locally have been peaceful and respectful,” Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher said. “We will show citizens the same respect in carrying out this order by emphasizing education on the state’s guidance, unless enforcement is called for to protect safety or property.”