Minneapolis police officers will enforce the statewide stay-at-home order in the city, but they will focus first on education and outreach, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a news conference Friday afternoon.
“We have to take this very seriously,” Arradondo said. “Our No. 1 goal is trying to get voluntary compliance, but if that should fail we will use enforcement measures that are appropriate.”
Their approach is in line with that of Gov. Tim Walz, who issued an executive order this week that asks residents to stay inside their homes unless they are leaving for essential purposes, such as visiting a doctor, buying food or other crucial supplies or working for certain businesses. Violating the order could carry a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 90 days in jail. It began at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
The order is designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, allowing officials to increase the state’s capacity to care for critically ill patients before infection rates peak. Frey said that while the city will emphasize education first, “I expect 100% compliance by Minneapolis residents and visitors with the governor’s stay-at-home order.”
Failing to comply, he said, will cause the city to reach peak caseloads “sooner than we are ready.”
“This is not optional. This is not a half measure. This is a mandate, and I expect it to be followed for the sake of our great city,” he said.
Frey promised the stay-at-home order “will not be a new tool for incarceration.”
Arradondo said police officers are receiving a copy of the order and will focus on violations that pose a threat to public health and safety.
“As we receive calls from the community that there is possible violations of this, MPD officers are being advised to respond to those locations, show them the executive order by the governor and advise them that they must cease with the activity,” Arradondo said.
The chief said officers will have discretion to decide whether they need to take tougher actions. Four or five people gathered in a backyard, the chief said, is “very different from 100 people having a large party.”
The city is bracing for an increase of 911 and 311 calls as the new rules go into place and more people get sick. Frey said the city is “in the process of preparing our city enterprise to face that additional influx.” That includes making sure that employees are available as backup if the virus sidelines workers in 911 and 311 services.
The city and state already have rules in place limiting bars, restaurants and other similar establishments to takeout, delivery or drive-through service only. In Minneapolis, there has been near “100% compliance, [with] maybe a couple exceptions here and there, and those exceptions are dealt with,” Frey said.
Staff writer Miguel Otárola contributed to this report.