Sheriff: No plans to make arrests for violating order

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

COUNTY — Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said his deputies will avoid arresting people for violating Gov. Henry McMaster’s stay-at-home order “unless absolutely necessary.”

Clark took part in a question-and-answer session hosted by Rep. Neal Collins on Facebook Live last week. In order to maintain social distancing, the officials participating submitted statements that were read aloud by Collins.

Clark said he wished to calm people’s concerns about the governor’s order.

“We will not be setting up a police state, as some fear, period,” Clark said. “The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office will not purposefully go out and stop vehicles because they are on the road or stop and ask people why they are out and about. To do so puts our deputies at risk. This is not Soviet Russia, where you are asked for your papers. We can take care of each other like we do every day.”

Deputies will take action, if needed, “on those rare situations where there are a lot of people who are hanging out in public, obviously in defiance of the governor’s order,” he said.

Even then, deputies will not immediately take people into custody, Clark said.

“Even in that case, we will first educate and try to disperse the group,” he said. “We’ll avoid arrests unless absolutely necessary. We have a great staff that knows how to take care of these situations.

“The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has been doing that for several weeks now,” Clark continued. “We have not made any arrests related to the current state of emergency.”

He urged people to use common sense during the executive order, which McMaster expanded on Sunday to run until April 27.

“We are more interested in the safety and well-being of the public, as well as our officers, at this time,” Clark said.

That doesn’t mean all arrests will be avoided. His agency is sworn to uphold the laws and constitution of the state, Clark said.

“For any unlawful act or situation, arrestees will be taken into custody as usual,” he said.

He said the best way to approach the coming days is to “treat everyone as though they have the virus.”

“Follow strict CDC guidelines and recommendations,” he said. “Use masks if needed. Wash your hands frequently. Disinfect. Wear gloves. Use common sense in all situations. The longer we do not follow these guidelines, the longer we wait in isolation. Remember, this is temporary.”

He urged residents to be kind, “especially on social media.”

“Negativity online only adds to the stress people are currently experiencing,” Clark said.

Most residents “are doing a fantastic job,” he said.

“We appreciate it,” he said. “Please look out for one another, especially the elderly and shut in.”