Coronavirus: Illinois State Police say COVID-19 enforcement relies on 'gradual coaxing'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As cracks develop in the COVID-19 armor put in place by Illinois governor JB Pritzker, there is a powerful fallback option at the ready to assist against violators: Illinois State Police.

ISP officials say their arsenal to be used against shelter-in-place naysayers is legal muscle and discussion, not lethal weapons or even handcuffs.

"For the past month-and-a-half if there's been many businesses, particularly that are regulated by the state, the Illinois State Police does work with those regulatory agencies particularly like the Liquor Control Commission, where there are specific requirements if some of them has a liquor license," said Brendon Kelly, Illinois State Police director.

"If they're violating some of the parameters we will assist with those investigations and how to proceed with any type of prosecutorial process that may come out of that or administrative process," Kelly said in an exclusive interview with the I-Team on Thursday.

Although the governor has said state officials "are not encouraging arrests," the ABC7 I-Team has learned that state police have already been quietly involved in efforts to keep counties and businesses from going rogue.

Kelly admits these are excruciatingly unusual times, but maintains such a behind-the-scenes role for ISP is not unusual. He points to the police agency's role with the Illinois EPA on civil, or sometimes criminal, investigations of environmental violators.

"If there is a factory that is dumping chemicals into the river, we'll go with the Illinois EPA and investigate and document those things," Kelly said.

There isn't much difference during the COVID-19 pandemic according to Kelly, who was appointed ISP director by Gov. Pritzker.

"When the governor is talking about state police helping, we are working with the agencies and the locals to make sure there is an appropriate consequence or response for violating health regulations," he said.

Frequently just the presence of ISP will deescalate the situation, Kelly said.

"By and large simply having a conversation with the owner, informing him of the risks, informing him what the requirements are supposed to be, usually, you're able to get voluntary compliance."
Last week, Michigan state police troopers tried to achieve compliance from mid-state barber Karl Manke who had re-opened in violation of a governor's order there. Manke promised that he planned to keep cutting hair "until Jesus comes."

On Wednesday state regulators revoked his barber license, the type of action that Illinois State Police officials would expect to see in similar circumstances here.

"The governor has encouraged everybody and law enforcement not to make arrests. This is a community caretaking function," ISP director Kelly contends.

But if things go sideways, and a state-licensed business refuses the offer of caretaking by community, Kelly said, "they're violating the conditions of that license. There is an enforcement process there and we assist with that."

Kelly said he sees the issuance of citations or arrests as a last resort and that he doesn't anticipate either will occur.

"There's a gradual coaxing and increased incremental measures that are there to help them get to the point where they are complying," said Kelly.
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