Florida Sheriff To Require ID For Hurricane Irma Shelter Seekers

Florida Sheriff Grady Judd To Require ID For Hurricane Irma Shelter Seekers

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd issued a barrage of tweets today declaring his department would be checking everyone’s identification at local Hurricane Irma shelters and that anyone with an open warrant – regardless of offense (from parking tickets to violent crime) would be taken to jail to ride out the storm. When confronted about the risk of causing substantial injuries and death due to people choosing to ride out the storm at home rather than subject themselves to imprisonment, Judd doubled down on his remarks.

The dangerous ploy comes at a time when Houston law enforcement made similar threats but ended up backing down when confronted with the reality that they faced putting people in the position of making life and death decisions for themselves and their families based on chest-puffing, irresponsible statements that should be avoided in times of natural disaster and emergency.

In the tweets, Sheriff Judd said:


To wit, these statements cause concern for several reasons:

  • This is obviously a thinly veiled ruse meant to snare undocumented individuals who would not have the type of documentation required by officers checking for identification in shelters.
  • Most registered sex offenders do not have outstanding warrants and treating them as an imminent threat to others by refusing to protect their lives during a natural disaster represents a breach of constitutional law. Even if they did have outstanding warrants – which will be addressed further in a moment – they are no less deserving of taxpayer provided protection from natural disaster than any other citizen.
  • Moreover, any registered sex offender who is refused entry based solely on a registration (as opposed to an open warrant) is wont to sue the city (assuming they survive the hurricane).
  • Those with open warrants are less likely to seek shelter now thanks to these comments meaning more people will attempt to ride out what’s being forecast as one of the Atlantic’s strongest storms ever recorded. Those that survive the initial impact of the hurricane without dying will require rescue.
  • That increase in stranded people requiring rescue will place more burden on first responders who place their lives on the line.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the egregious, smug ridiculousness of Sheriff Judd’s statements.

In their report on Judd’s tweets, Newsweek noted:

Wednesday wasn’t the first time the sheriff has been criticized for his law enforcement practices. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Judd’s office in federal court in 2012 for “regularly subjecting children held at the county’s adult jail to abuse, neglect and violence—including the placement of children in a cage for punishment,” according to the nonprofit. While one federal judge overseeing the case criticized Judd in 2013 for using pepper spray against juveniles, another federal judge ruled in favor of Judd in 2015 and threw out the suit, the Orlando Sentinereported.

Bustle added:

Bustle has reached out to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for comment, asking for clarification whether people taken to the “safe and secure shelter” of the county jail will be allowed to leave when the storm passes, as would people in a normal storm shelter, or whether they’ll be held. A representative of the office gave the following response:

Our jail facilities are safe and secure shelters. Anyone in our jail will most likely be safe from a storm. If for any reason a jail facility becomes unsafe, since we have a duty to safely house inmates, we will take the inmates elsewhere.

Bustle has requested further comment, given that the office’s response did not answer whether Hurricane Irma evacuees will be held in jail after the storm has ended.

They succinctly concluded, “The prospect of being jailed in the middle of a huge, potentially life-threatening natural disaster is harrowing in the extreme. It places an additional burden on a person’s decision-making ― am I going to be arrested and thrown in jail if I try to protect myself? ― at a time when everyone’s top priority should be safety.”

That concern is well justified based on actual hurricane history – primarily, what happened to inmates in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

CNN noted:

Some Twitter critics pointed out that hundreds of inmates were abandoned in dangerous conditions after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. According to Human Rights Watch, 600 inmates in the Orleans Parish Prison compound were trapped in chest-deep water for four days before they were rescued from the flooded city.

Judd’s office appears to be doubling down on their intention to put lives at risk for lip service about sex offenders and people with warrants.

In an interview with a spokesperson from Judd’s office, The Daily Beast exposed the heartless cruelty of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in the face of a life threatening natural disaster:

Floridians who stand to be jailed may simply choose not to seek shelter in the midst of a Category 5 storm. If that happens, Carrie Horstman, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said, the fault won’t lie with authorities. “I don’t know at this point what this storm will do,” she told The Daily Beast. “We are trying to give people a heads up as many days in advance as possible to prepare of this storm.” In an interview, Horstman further explained that it was policy to check IDs at the shelter doors to prevent sex offenders from getting to close to children. “While we are checking, if we see someone with an active warrant we have to place them under arrest,” she added. She didn’t seem persuaded by the criticism that this would discourage people from showing up in the first place. “That is a risk a person would run,” Horstman said. “I think it is much safer to be in our jail than to expose yourself to a Category 5 storm. You are using the phrase, ‘people who are scared to go to jail.’ If you have a warrant, legally you should be in jail. You should turn yourself in and be safe in our jail rather than risk your life waiting out a storm.”

They’re essentially saying that it will be everyone else’s fault if the hurricane kills them, not the Sheriff’s Department for denying entry to sex offenders or threatening to jail and potentially strand people with warrants – even if those warrants are for unpaid parking tickets.

This is just another example of the Trump Effect: profit over people. Greed and disingenuousness over humanity.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Department should be ashamed of themselves.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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