Police, sheriff say they won't pull people over simply for driving during stay-at-home order

Officials with the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office and Topeka Police Department say they won't pull people over just because they are traveling in their vehicles during a stay-at-home order, which starts at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and continues until April 26.
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Local law enforcement officials say they won't be pulling people over just because they are traveling in their vehicles during the stay-at-home order in Shawnee County, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The order, which was prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, is known as "Safer at Home."

Shawnee County Health Officer Gianfranco Pezzino announced the order on Tuesday afternoon. It covers all residents of Shawnee County, including those living in Topeka. The order is in effect until April 26.

Local officials say that under the order, everyone is to stay home except for essential needs, such as getting food; caring for a relative or friend; getting necessary health care; or going to an essential job. Vulnerable populations also must stay home.

Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill said Wednesday that deputies won't be looking to pull people over simply for driving in their vehicles.

However, he said, deputies will respond to calls regarding gatherings of 10 or more people.

Such gatherings were banned effective this past Tuesday by Gov. Laura Kelly.

Hill said deputies responding to such calls would ask those gathered to disperse so the group would fall into the allowable number of individuals.

Citations would only be issued in cases where people refused to leave when asked to do so by law enforcement, Hill said.

The Topeka Police Department also won't be looking to stop people simply for driving in their vehicles. However, police Lt. Manny Munoz said, officers can still pull over vehicles for traffic offenses, and in such cases may inquire whether a person is traveling for an essential purpose.

"This is a very fast evolving situation and know that the public will work with us to comply with these orders," Munoz said. "The department has protocols and procedures in place in the event we do not get voluntary compliance.

"We continue to ask the public for cooperation in this very difficult situation for our community and our country. Together we will get through this."