Law enforcement agencies will continue same operations as governor loosens restrictions

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 8, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — As North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s modified stay-at-home order takes effect today, area law enforcement agencies say they will continue to adhere to the guidelines they’ve maintained since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Capt. John Sifford said the response to incidents didn’t really change with the pandemic and the law enforcement agency will “continue to operate as we have.”

Sifford said the sheriff’s office will continue to maintain social distancing when dealing with anyone and wear masks when in an area that they can’t social distance.

The Rowan County Detention Center, which has been taking precautions that include screening those who have entered the jail, will continue to do so, Sifford said.

Once restrictions loosen, Sifford said the sheriff’s office will continue to write citations when possible.

Initially, the sheriff’s office asked municipalities if police agencies would issue citations when appropriate to reduce the number of people in the jail.

Although the agency has issued citations in some cases during the pandemic, other times required an arrest and people were given a bond. Just this week, a Salisbury man was issued a $2 million bond after he was accused of running over a deputy’s foot with his vehicle and driving off, dragging another deputy 60 feet.

“With the operation of the courts still being reduced to a minimum by officials with the state of North Carolina, we will continue with our current operating plan,” Sifford said.

Salisbury police spokesman Lt. Lee Walker said the city law enforcement agency will also likely continue writing citations unless an arrest is needed.

Police Chief Jerry Stokes said there have been no significant changes since police officers were still at work during this entire event.

“Some of the units, like detectives, had been platooning and will return to normal schedules,” Stokes said.

He said most of the detectives have maintained a busy schedule because of some of the cases the agency has been working. In April, Jateare McNeal, 27, was shot following an argument in the Jersey City neighborhood. He was hospitalized and later released.

Two weeks ago, Jonathan Elijah Ijames, 30, was shot and killed at the Lafayette Street Apartment complex following a fight there when others, including a 15-year-old, were shot.

Stokes said the department had cleaning and personal protective equipment protocols in place and will keep them in place for the foreseeable future. Stokes added that the department has taken an education stance on enforcing the governor’s executive order.

Officers have distributed letters educating the public about the executive order during instances of a possible violation.

Additionally, the police are not conducting fingerprinting for outside job applicants other than nurses and there will be a plexiglass shield between the public and officers, Walker said.