Transcript of FAQ – Truckee COVID-19 Discussion
Video was released on Friday, April 10, 2020
Deverie Acuff: I’m Deverie Acuff and I’m the Public Information Officer for the Town of Truckee, and I’m sitting here today with the Chief of Police, Rob Leftwich and we have some community questions that we seeing continuously coming up on our social media accounts. We’d like to address those with you today.
Rob Leftwich: That’d be great.
Deverie Acuff: We are currently under an order that Governor Newsom announced on March 19th. Can you explain that?
Rob Leftwich: Yeah, so currently the State of California is under a Stay-At-Home Order. And, I wish that I could go into great detail to exactly what that is, but it’s not something that law enforcement is really that familiar with. Stay-In-Place Order and that terminology; it’s the first time I’ve heard in my career, and we’re certainly not routinely dealing with that.
Deverie Acuff: So, is it different than a shelter-in-place order?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, it is. The Shelter-In-Place Order, is something that we have used in the past, and that’s more used for emergency situations: so floods, fires, active shooters in neighborhoods. We’ll typically issue a Shelter-In Place Order and evacuation orders. That’s terminology that comes up in our emergency services all the time, but trying to give the comparison to what the Stay-At-Home Order and the Shelter-In-Place Order are, is a little more convoluted.
Deverie Acuff: What’s your interpretation of what Governor Newsom was trying to accomplish with the Stay-At-Home Order?
Robert Leftwich: Yeah, I think he said it. In his press release he really focused on trying to push to the community that it was behavior change. He wanted the community, through social pressure, to influence others to really stay at home, practice proper hygiene, only leave the house for essential trips. That really, I think, was the premise of what that the Stay-At-Home Order was. I don’t think it was ever intended to be something that transitioned down to law enforcement, or to us taking enforcement action, but yet unfortunately it’s become that.
Deverie Acuff: Why can’t we shut the roadways and only allow “locals” into Truckee?
Robert Leftwich: Yeah, on the high level, we’re really talking about a constitutional issue, right? The Constitution of the United States is people have the freedom of movement, and the right to travel. On a State level, that’s not what Governor Newsom’s Order was, it was a Stay-At-Home Order. It really wasn’t meant to lock down freeways, and completely restrict movement. Also, kind of on that State or that local level; I don’t control the freeways. I-80, HWY 267, and HWY 89; those are all arteries that are controlled by California Highway Patrol or CalTrans. I don’t have jurisdiction to just shut those down, and start checking IDs. I think even if we take all of that aside, looking at a local level, I’m not sure that’s what we really want to do as a Police Department. I’m not sure what some of that looks like. The first thing that comes to my mind, is I don’t know how we define what a local is. I’ve never been shown anything legally that says I’m allowed to make that determination based on where somebody is registered to vote, or what their driver’s license says, or where they own a home. So when we really get into the nuisances of defines a local, it’s not as clear cut as some might think. Then there’s the complexities of the relationship between the Police Department and the community. If we were to make those stops, who do we ticket inside that car? Do both parents get tickets? Do the kids get the ticket? Does everyone in the car get a ticket, or just the driver? I think that, when you really start thinking about the logistics and the practicality of doing that, you start to understand how complex that really is. It’s not as simple as identifying a local and allowing them to have essential travel, but stopping everyone coming into an area, that really has a large influx of people year around.
Deverie Acuff: In light of everything you just said, what would it look like if we started doing enforcement on those who have come for the weekend, or if people are suspected of not socially distancing or following the Stay-At-Home?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, that is complex too. And so in our world, we use a legal term called a consensual encounter. That’s when we don’t have a legal reason to stop somebody, like a traffic violation, or they have committed a crime, or we suspect that they’ve committed a crime. So we do these consensual contacts, which is basically just an officer stopping their car and starting a conversation with somebody. Just for a second I want us to kind of envision what that would look like. So you’re walking with a group of friends, or let’s say family members so you’re practicing appropriate social distancing. You’re walking with your family members on the street, and for whatever reason a police officer stops near you and gets out of his car. You recognize that his break lights come on, and he’s getting out of the car. He comes up and introduces himself, says how are you doing, and hey I just want to check, do you guys live here? Yes, we live down the street. Oh, do you mind if I see your ID? That’s a consensual contact. That sounds pretty benign, but that can be highly offensive. If people are in their neighborhood, or they’re affiliated with their second home, or even a home that they’ve been staying in since this started. Having a police officer contact them, and ask for their identification and start that process of trying to validate who they are and why they’re there; that can really cause a lot of issues. I’ve talked a little bit about the relationship dynamic. You know, my entire career has been spent trying to get rid of some of the perceptions of law enforcement and the community, and the fact that we’re robotic; these government entities that aren’t people, and we don’t have families and we don’t understand people’s freedoms and how intimidating it is to deal with us. I fear that, the expectation of us doing those kind of consensual contacts, or those enforcement stops, would set us back decades. I’m just not sure that’s the best practice moving forward.
Deverie Acuff: What defines us, Truckee, as “hot spot”?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, that’s a great question. I know that term is starting to float around more in the community and on social media coming from some news stories. I don’t know of anything that actually defines, mathematically or statistically, a hot spot. I’m a little concerned that our community is marrying themselves to that description of what’s going on, certainly, we have COVID positive cases here per capita that are concerning, but that’s from a modeling perspective. I think what the hospital and public health, and really all public safety entities are trying to do is model what could happen. That’s very different than actually looking at the numbers we have in context to what our population is. I don’t know if hot spot necessarily describes where we are, but I think that there’s adequate concern for us to practice all the principles that we’ve laid out because of where we could be. The problem with the hot spot terminology is, it’s very subjective, and I don’t think it necessarily captures what’s happening right now.
Deverie Acuff: We’ve also heard many complaints that we see an influx of people coming into the town. What’s your take on that?
Robert Leftwich: Yeah, I definitely think there’s people traveling into the area. I’m not going to deny that. I live in Truckee, and I see it in my neighborhood. It’s very frustrating, it’s frustrating for everyone particularly those who are coming up on the weekends, and then returning to where ever they live. I definitely think that’s happening region wide. When I look at news stories, and I look at what’s happening in the United States this is dynamic, and I can’t speak to all of the United States, but at least in California, it’s playing out all over. It’s not just mountain towns, it’s beach communities. It’s resort and tourist destinations that are feeling that influx. I think that the issue there, and what we have to stay focused on is, its people’s actions, not necessarily the individual labels on the people that are coming up. It is concerning that people are coming into our area. Specifically, how many people we have here, I don’t know. I think it feels like it’s more than it is. The restaurants are pretty much closed down; they’re take out or dine out only. All of the businesses are closed down. Obviously all of the ski resorts in the wintertime are closed down. I think there’s a higher congestion of people in the neighborhoods and around their homes, and that’s giving the perception that the numbers are greater than what they are. But I am not trying to give the impression that we don’t have people not abiding by the stay at home and traveling to the area. I’m just not sure it’s not as catastrophic as maybe some people feel with in their individual neighborhoods.
Deverie Acuff: I know the actual positive test results come from the County Public Health and from Tahoe Forest Health System or TFH. Why are we seeing those numbers be different?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, I see that asked a lot on social media too, and unfortunately I also see the comments that there’s some kind of mistrust, or we’re not communicating, or we don’t understand what’s going on. That’s hardly the case. What is occurring is Tahoe Forest is a special district, and it’s a district that’s larger than Truckee and it’s larger than Nevada County. Nevada County is reporting the numbers, eastern and western, within Nevada County. The hospital district is reporting on those numbers that are associated with their district. We have numerous special districts in the Town of Truckee. There’s the school district, hospital district, fire district. Those are different boundaries than what the Town city limits are, and also what the county limits are. That’s where the difference is. If you want accurate numbers for what’s happening in Truckee, I would encourage to look to Nevada County (website) and look at their eastern numbers and that, for the most part, is Truckee. That does include some unincorporated areas of eastern county, but for the most part the vast majority of those numbers are in Truckee.
Deverie Acuff: You’ve talked before about your four pillars, could you explain those?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, so that goes back to some of the things that we’ve talked about with people being about to focus on what they can control. I really think that’s a pivotal point for our community to stay focused on the things that they can influence their family and friends to do. That’s that- no leisure travel, or recreational travel, limit that as much as possible, if not all together. Leisure and recreational activities, particularly those that are high risk. What’s high risk? That’s back country skiing, snowmobiling, motorcycle riding. Even for kids, trying to prevent them from riding skateboards and bikes. Anything that could land you in the hospital is kind of in that zone of high risk, adventure based activity. We want to be really, really conservative about that. The other is hygiene, right? It’s washing your hands, and washing your hands a lot. There’s a new trend that CDC is releasing information. We see masks starting to come on to the scene, surgical masks. I don’t know where that’s going to go. I’m not a healthcare professional, but those are really part of the hygiene habits that I’m talking about. The fourth is personal responsibility, and that gets into the span of control and span of influence. It’s really important that everyone focuses on what they’re doing to keep themselves healthy and safe, and what their friends and family are doing to keep themselves healthy and safe. I see a lot of emotional capital, or what I’m calling emotional capital, being spent on trying to get to the answers of who’s coming up to stay, as we’ve talked about. What other people are doing with their social distancing, and all of that I understand the connection. We feel that’s putting us at greater risk; people’s irresponsibility or their lack of personal responsibility, but you can’t control that. You’re never going to be able to control everybody else. We’re a law enforcement agency and I can’t control everybody. We have to focus on what we can do for ourselves, our family, and our friends.
Deverie Acuff: If you had one thing to tell our community, what would that be?
Robert Leftwich: Yes, I have used this term before, for me, it’s staying focused. I talked a little bit about span of control, span of influence, and I don’t want to just make little ketch phrases that don’t really mean anything. When I say stay focused, it’s focusing on those pillars, and not getting into the social dynamics of worrying about who the people are down the street that you didn’t see there last week. I think that it takes away a lot of emotional capital that should be spent on making sure that you’re abiding by the four pillars that we talked about, that your friends are, that your families are, that your kids are doing the right thing while they’re home, home schooling, distance learning. That’s where your emotions and your energy should be spent. That’s what I mean by that sphere, that span of influence. That span of control gets out of that, and starts it eat away at that emotional capital and that worries me for our community because, I do think right now, we are in a pivotal time. Although the numbers are trending in the direction, and that’s really a message that public health and Tahoe Forest need to deliver to the community. I don’t want to get into the specifics, but from what I’m seeing, they are trending in the right direction. The analogy I’ve used with people; it’s like running a marathon. At the moment, we feel good, we’ve got a really good pace going, but we’re at mile 15 and there’s still a lot more to go. We need to look farther beyond how we feel at the moment, and how we keep that pace going for the long haul. That’s that influence and control dynamic.
Deverie Acuff: Well thank you for taking the time to sit with me today. I think we have answered most of the community’s concerns. As this develops would you mind sitting down with me again?
Robert Leftwich: No I think it’s really valuable. I appreciate being able to address these community concerns and questions that keep coming up. Of course we’ll do that. I encourage everybody if they have questions about COVID-19 and the numbers that are actually happening in the eastern county, you have to visit the County of Nevada website and you’ll see their dashboard that tracks that on a daily basis. There’s a ton of information online about those four pillars I talked about. They articulate them differently; the four pillars is kind of my thing, but certainly we’re all saying the same thing. I just really want our community to stay focused, and driving towards staying healthy and emotionally healthy.