St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe speaks during a press conference about repealing bail reform legislation. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

NEW YORK — The state’s new executive order limiting in-person gatherings inside private homes to 10 people has been met with considerable criticism, including law enforcement wondering how their officers can enforce this rule.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a shot at law enforcement — especially those upstate — Monday for their continued push back against him and his COVID-19 mandates, saying they can’t “pick and choose” what laws they enforce, and law enforcement fired back.

“I don’t consider them a law enforcement officer,” the governor said, “you don’t have the right to pick laws that you don’t want to enforce or don’t agree with. That’s not a law enforcement officer, that’s a dictator.”

No officers were named in Gov. Cuomo’s Monday verbal scolding of law enforcement, but he did identify upstate sheriffs as those who have said they will not enforce the governor’s mandate.

“How a law enforcement officer says, ‘I choose not to enforce the law,’ that law enforcement officer violates their condition of duty,” the governor said.

Lewis County Sheriff Michael P. Carpinelli has been one of the sheriffs rather vocal about his opposition to the governor’s continued mandates throughout the pandemic.

Over the summer, the sheriff went on record saying he and his deputies would not be patrolling county bars to enforce state social distancing and mask mandates.

“To me, it’s not a criminal crisis, it’s a health crisis,” Sheriff Carpinelli previously said. “Why should the police be enforcing a health crisis?”

Sheriff Carpinelli earlier this year announced his bid to run against Gov. Cuomo in 2022.

After Monday’s press conference, the New York State Sheriff’s Association issued a three-page letter in response to the governor’s comments, stating the 10-person limit on gatherings in private homes has “caused great consternation among many of our citizens, who envision armed officers arriving at their doors to count the number of people around the Thanksgiving table.”

The letter says this would be “neither practical nor Constitutional.”

In response to the governor’s comment that law enforcement officers can’t “pick and choose” which laws they wish to enforce, the association said it finds the comment “ironic, and disingenuous” as the governor has directed that state police do not need to enforce the order.

The letter continues on to say those in law enforcement are not sure whether the 10-person limit is the right call, or number, to make.

“That is a decision for science, not us, to make,” the letter says.

But, they said they do know the onus the governor has put upon law enforcement is an “impossible task.”

“We urge all our citizens to keep informed on the best steps to take to protect themselves, and others, from the spread of this terrible disease. We urge you to listen to our public health officials. We urge you to limit your exposure to those outside your household as much as you reasonably can. If we all do that, we will sooner be able to get back to normal,” the letter reads. “We in law enforcement do not have the resources nor the legal authority to force you to do those things. It is a matter of individual responsibility and we are confident that you will all voluntarily rise to the occasion.”

The letter has since circulated among sheriff departments in the state, with St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe being the lone sheriff in the tri-county area to sign the letter as of Monday night.

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Assistant Managing Editor

In her role as assistant managing editor at the Watertown Daily Times, Sydney manages the photo department, social media accounts and NNY360.com.

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(18) comments


“Crisis standards of care” is a term of art for the temporary, emergency level of care that can be provided during situations, like disasters, when there simply aren’t enough resources to maintain the normal standards. TPM

Fortunately we aren’t, presently anyway, at that level of crisis. Some hospitals are close to the point of having to make a decision about who to treat, tho. If you’re in Wisconsin or El Paso or lots of other places it’s probably not a good time to have a heart attack or get shot.


I say good for the Sheriffs...I feel it's time to rid the state of the legislature. They have no power. NY is Germany circa 1941. One man rule. Not a check or a balance. And now, when he chooses, a police state. He has been using the police to advance his agenda for sometime...until a protest/riot breaks out and then he hides. Cuomo has done damage to this state that may never be recoverable. Both financially and now from a health standpoint. He makes Trump look like a centrist lol


Shouldn't be an issue... we've "turned the corner".. "it's going away, like a miracle"..“fading away. It’s going to fade away.” rounding the final turn” ... we're 10 days in a row over 100,000 cases..

hermit thrush

what is really sad about this comment is that the people of our country went through enormous sacrifices to win wwii and the same is being asked of us now. to compare sensible, but difficult, public health measures to nazism is ridiculous and obscene.


Come on man, an estimated 70-85 Million people died during WWII. I don’t think we’re near that number, at least not yet. It’s not about ‘public health measures’ its about Control....

hermit thrush

we had about 418,500 deaths (military and civilian) in wwii. we're going to have over 300,000 covid deaths before christmas. it most certainly is about public health measures -- only the most febrile right-wing minds could think otherwise.


Nailed it HR! WWII is a perfect analogy... everyone was asked to sacrifice at every level...rationing of everything from butter to petrol... 400,000 US lives were lost in WWII over 6 years.. we've lost more than half of that number...and it's been less than a year... and all we've been asked to do is wear a mask, wash our hands, and day 6' apart... Is that the difference between that generation, and this one.....or is it the leadership?

Joseph Savoca

What Holmes below is deliberately misrepresenting is your call to take action for the good of the country, as in World War II, to the total death toll in World War II compared to that for covid19. If he, Charlie McGrath and the rest of the Republicans would practice the personal responsibility that they preach, there might be fewer deaths.

If we continue to look at the history of the conservatives response, it keeps changing from the death toll being a lot fewer than that for the swine flu under Obama, to less than the seasonal flu, to now less than the entire death toll of World War II. Let's hope it doesn't reach that milestone, but I suppose the country will be lucky if everyone at least acknowledges that the pandemic exists.



Charlie McGrath

The Fourth Amendment gives the people the right to be secure in their homes against unreasonable searches . Supported by oath or affirmation. That's why they want you to call the police to turn your neighbor in. Otherwise they don't have probable cause. Can't anyone see what is happening? These police officers are members of the community with families. They swore to uphold the Constitution. Saying I was just following orders is not an excuse. They do not view themselves a tools of oppression. Along with 74 million others, they are people like you and me that see that this is wrong. Is this really the direction we want to go? History says no.


I understand the point of view of the sheriffs, but they could at least not trample all over the message the governor is trying to convey. How about a little support for calling on people to not be careless on the holidays? There’s nothing to say upstate NY doesn’t end up in the same boat the Midwest is by January.

hermit thrush

just goes to show the power of the gop death cult.


“To me, it’s not a criminal crisis, it’s a health crisis,” Sheriff Carpinelli previously said. “Why should the police be enforcing a health crisis?” Really? So I guess you don't enforce wearing a seatbelt? Kids in car seats? Helmets on motorcycle riders? Smoking in restaurants...schools? How about environmental laws....literally hundreds? This isn't about health laws... it's about Cuomo ... it's about Trump... Give me a little credit....I'm so over the political BS of the last 4 years.....


Agreed. We need more thinking adults in our area.


They obviously don’t enforce illegal immigration...


Cuomo just now found out about this? Yes, selective enforcement (rule by men rather than by laws) has been part of "the law" since the 19th century at least. But nobody really has to pay attention to it unless they want to.


Might suggest the staff at Lewis County Hospital gets a vote on this... since they're the ones risking their lives dealing with this mess since people won't follow simple rules...

hermit thrush


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