Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley WGME video shot

LEWISTON — With a statewide stay-at-home order in place and social distancing on everybody’s minds, Lewiston police said Thursday they’re going to start cracking down. Fail to comply and you could ultimately find yourself sitting in jail. 

“The Lewiston Police Department has received a large number calls and messages on possible violations of the Governor’s Emergency stay at home order,” Police Chief Brian O’Malley wrote in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “The department will enforce this order. Our initial response will be educational measures that include warnings, and providing a copy of the order. If individuals continue to violate the emergency order, they shall be issued a criminal summons or arrested.” 

As with most police statements on the topic these days, there were caveats. People can be out for certain reasons, but police will pay extra attention in coming days to the matter of who is going where and when.

“The emergency order does not restrict you from leaving your home for an essential activity such as a trip to the grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, restaurants to pick up meals to go, or a gas station,” O’Malley wrote. “But stores will be limiting the number of people allowed inside, so only go if it is essential; don’t just go to get out of your house. 

“Exercising during this trying time is also important,” the chief added, “and you can leave your home to walk your dog, ride your bike, or go for a jog — but make sure that you practice good social distancing.” 

O’Malley also pointed out that the Kennedy Park basketball courts and skate park have been closed completely. The chief intends to enforce those rules, as well. 

“You should not be playing basketball in any city park or school playground because this does not allow appropriate distancing,” he wrote. “Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited regardless of where they take place, including in your home.” 

In his statement, O’Malley stressed that ignoring stay-at-home orders risks further transmission of the COVID-19 virus and imperils medical workers, grocery store and public safety employees and other “essential” workers. 

Reaction to O’Malley’s pronouncements on social media were overwhelmingly supportive. Many residents applauded the plan to enforce social distancing, even if it means some folks might end up in jail. 

Not everyone, however, is a fan. 

“So, you’re going to turn it into a police state,” Jessie Brown of New Gloucester wrote on Facebook, “kinda like Nazi Germany when the SS officers went around asking people to see their papers?” 

“If people are too stupid to stay home on their own,” responded Greg Morin of Lewiston, “I hope (police) do!”

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