Sergeant Jay Niles is Columbia Township’s acting police chief.  He offers this information on the Governor’s COVID-19 orders and local enforcement:

As we are aware the current events of the Covid 19 crisis has reshaped our world.  Unfortunately, the magnitude of this pandemic will continue to impact our lives and our community as well.  It is the goal to continue to maintain the safety and security of our community and to keep each of us as healthy as possible. 

State of Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has disseminated numerous orders over the past several weeks.  Each of these orders carry significant importance and cover a lot of ground, however a select few specifically change how we go about our daily activities. 

Executive order 2020-04 —   This order provides that during times of great public crisis, disaster, catastrophe, or similar public emergency the governor may proclaim a state of emergency and designate the area involved.  (click order, highlighted in blue, to read)

Executive order 2020-21 —   This order is a temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.   The order goes on to define work who are necessary to sustain or protect life are defined as critical infrastructure workers.  (click order, highlighted in blue, to read)

The governor’s orders by virtue of the declaration of the emergency become law that is enforceable with the penalties with up to 90 days in jail and/or $1000.00 fine. 

Governor Whitmer’s executive orders attempt to divide activities into essential and non-essentials activities.   The essential activities such as emergency roof repair to your home or emergency repair to fix a failed sump pump are needed tasks that must be tended to as rapidly as possible to ensure the safety and security of the home.   The non-essential task such as installing a swimming pool or recreational deck would be optional and not contribute to the safety and security of the residence. Additionally, the property owner may perform any needed upkeep on the domicile and property as long as the property owner is conducting the work themselves, including dock installation.

Sergeant Niles

The question that needs to be asked when deciding if the activity is essential or non-essential is it the activity worth taking a chance of contracting the Covid 19 virus, let alone violation of the governor’s orders.  Is hiring an outside third-party business to come to your home worth the chance to bring the virus to your home by a person who may not even know they have contracted or are carrying the virus?  This is not about the work to be done, it’s about protecting our citizens from potential virus that is taking lives as the virus continues to infect people. 

The executive orders do allow recreational activities such as walking, running, bicycling if accepted social distancing practices are used.  Additionally, it is permissible to travel for the purpose of gathering needed supplies such as groceries or medication items necessary to support the basics of life and promote safety and security while sheltering.  Boating is also acceptable; however, it must be limited to family members who reside together.   [see note below].   

Enforcement of these orders by Columbia Township Police Department will be investigated objectively and thoroughly.   We will not be seeking violations of the executive orders during our patrols but will address these violations on a complaint driven method in which citizens must make and participate in the investigation of the violation.  We are making every effort to resolve executive order violation complaints with simple compliance.  If the offender discontinues the activity determined to be a violation, then no further enforcement will occur unless an additional complaint is received at a later time.  If an additional violation occurs the investigation will be completed, and a police report will be prepared and forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review for potential criminal charges.   Currently all complaints investigated have been resolved with compliance and there have been no charges sought, no fines and no incarceration which is a trend that I hope to see continue. 

I emphasize that these efforts are not about restricting activities and limiting travel about the community but about ensuring everyone’s safety during the horrible crisis.  Ultimately the goal of the governor’s orders is indeed to “stay home, stay safe”.  

Note:  A previous version specified that when boating there be “no more than two at a time on the vessel.”  That line has been eliminated as it is not part of the governor’s rules or FAQs.  

To read frequently asked question about the order, please click here