Police enforcement of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order closing non-life-sustaining businesses began Monday, but police will not immediately punish businesses that fail to comply.
State and local police will enforce the order, as well as the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture. Wolf issued the order as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Canonsburg police Chief Alex Coghill said Friday there was confusion over the role of local authorities in enforcement. The enforcement date was then moved from Saturday to Monday as businesses sought exemptions.
On Monday, Coghill said his department had received guidelines from the governor’s office.
“We’re going to follow those guidelines,” Coghill said. “In other words, we’re going to issue two warnings first. We’re going to look to cite after that.”
A citation would be a summary offense, punishable by fines and jail time. However, Coghill does not think it will come to that for any business owners in Canonsburg.
“I don’t anticipate it being an issue, to tell you the truth. We believe probably everyone is going to be compliant,” Coghill said.
State police Trooper Forrest Allison, public information officer for Troop B, said it had received reports of businesses violating the order on Monday, but that they were either exempt businesses or referred to a local department.
Coghill asked that any residents making a report first check the state’s list of what is and is not considered to be non-life-sustaining to make sure they are not reporting an exempt business.
Allison said anyone who wants to make a report should reach out to local police directly.
“They don’t want you to call 911,” Allison said.
According to Allison, police will only take punitive action if it becomes “absolutely necessary.”
“The first step is education. None of this is about punishment. It’s about safety of the citizens. We’re one little part of the big process of getting the numbers to flatten off,” Allison said.