An excerpt from: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/volusia-county/os-ne-daytona-beach-shooting-investigation-20200524-wtjxnox26fhpxdriov5ccetlj4-story.html

Chief Capri said despite the various incidents, authorities “never lost control” of the area and were able to disperse crowds as they popped up.

“I know people were scared and I know people were upset about the numbers of crowds there,” he said. “We don’t take this lightly especially with the crowds gathering together right now as we got the coronavirus still going around and people not practicing social distancing. But I’m not the social distancing police — that’s not my job.”

Under what conditions is it the responsibility of the police to enforce social distancing?


2 Answers 2


He is the (social distancing) police

Which is to say, that police are responsible for enforcing the law without fear or favour but are allowed to employ their discretion in how and when they do so.

Police have limited resources and legally have discretion in their response to lawbreaking: they can make arrests and bring charges, they can issue tickets,they can give formal and informal warnings or they can walk away. They are allowed to consider whether what they do is ‘just’, achievable and worthwhile.

In the circumstances, it was probably reasonable for the police to conclude that trying to enforce social distancing laws would be arbitrary and not worthwhile.


Enforcement actions and policy decisions are distinct matters. Clearly articulated laws against murder are always enforced, under orders from higher political authorities. Other quasi-laws like the social-distancing guidelines have a weaker statutory and constitutional basis. There is a chain of command whereby clear orders are given to officers to e.g. arrest anyone found closer to another person that 6 feet (basically, everybody that goes to a grocery store). The chief of police is not an independent political officer and does not directly interpret state executive orders, he is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the mayor. If the mayor orders a strict crackdown, then the chief's job is to make it so. It is difficult to ascertain what orders have been given and remain in effect, but it appears that the police only engage in informational pamphletting and have not been ordered to arrest. Arrests have been made in NYC, and some have been made in Florida in the case of churches flagrantly in violation. The policy is ultimately set by a politician, not an autonomous chief of police or beat cop. (That does not preclude the possibility that an individual officer will believe that he is supposed to arrest people who he believes are too close).

  • 1
    What if the social distancing requirement is not a "quasi-law" guideline but an actual law, or a regulation or order duly issued under statutory authority with criminal sanctions for violations?
    – phoog
    May 26, 2020 at 3:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .