A sheriff in Sierra County, New Mexico, has deputized 20 Churchgoers in order to ensure public safety for the community, while also having the ancillary consequence of bypassing portions of by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gathering restrictions. The state’s stay at home orders currently prohibits gatherings of more than 5 people.
Sheriff Glenn Hamilton made this surprising announcement during an in-person church service he was attending, a move which drew murmurs from the crowds. Previously in the sermon, he railed against the public health order and against the governor for failing to open communities and businesses.
“I’m not in any way shape or form attempting to minimize the impact that that’s had on our state on their friends and on their families, but the reality, folks, is that we’re all going to die,” the sheriff said.
There have been 127 deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico and one resolved case in Sierra County, which has a population of a little under 12,000 and is spread across small towns, villages and unincorporated communities.
The sheriff offered to deputize anyone willing to sign up, and also extended the deputization offer to all churches in the county he oversees, with the expectation that many more churchgoers would sign up. He also specifically noted that being deputized would exempt them from social distancing measure.
“I guess one of the benefits of what we just did here is that under the governor’s order, law enforcement is exempted from her order—believe me folks that is not my intent here today,” he said after the act was complete.
While many churchgoers will be pleased to be special deputies, they have no authority of any kind unless they are called into service.
In a follow-up interview with local press, Sheriff Hamilton emphasized that the motivation for deputizing churchgoers was done in order to support the community. He stated that and that they would not be engaged in law enforcement duties per se, but that “should riot conditions start existing, should civil disobedience, it could be everything from crowd control measures to as simple as administrative staff duties.”