Chesterton Tribune



Gary Germann: Governor's order strikes balance between individuals and community

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Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Germann--who last week announced that he has authorized law enforcement agencies to arrest and charge those found flagrantly in violation of the governor’s shelter-in-place order--has shared with the Chesterton Tribune his response to a resident who asked him, in an e-mail, “Where in the Constitution does it say that the government has the right to restrict travel by private citizens.”

Germann’s response:

“You ask a great question. First, in the context of the governor’s executive order we have not been asked to stay at home. The order only restricts non-essential travel in light of the developing research that the virus is so highly contagious it spreads easily and quickly from person to person. Two good examples are New Orleans and the Spring Break crowds on the Florida beaches.

"Second, the authority for the executive order is set forth in a specific Indiana statute found in Title 10 for emergency purposes to protect all of our citizens in case of something like this. I hope we can all agree this rises to the level of an emergency.

“Third, the order itself is meant to call on our common sense so we do not unwittingly infect someone with whom we interact, whether it be at the store, within our families, and among our friends. There are a number of activities outside the home that are not only permitted but encouraged, so long as the approved social-distancing guidelines are being followed. Given my extensive commitment to the safety of our community, meaning everyone who lives here, I am encouraging everyone, yes, everyone, to do their best to comply. I never wanted to be or seem heavy-handed about the order and how it is enforced, but rather I am looking for a spirit of cooperation to curb the virus and maybe reduce the death toll because that is a real, as opposed to an imagined, concern.

Finally, the reason why your question is a great one is because it addresses one of the fundamental issues any democracy faces, and that is what happens in that democracy when individual rights conflict potentially with the best interests of the democracy as a whole. I wish I had the answer to that question when that occurs, and it does happen from time to time. In the case at hand, I think the order of the governor is intended to strike a balance as best he can.

“As I mentioned, we in law enforcement have no intention to arrest anyone but instead we are relying on people and their commonsense to take the appropriate and sacrificial steps to protect themselves and their neighhbors.”


Posted 3/31/2020




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