As Hurricane Irma nears, Florida sheriff warns sex offenders at shelters will be arrested

A Florida sheriff tweeted Wednesday that sex offenders or those with a warrant would be arrested if seeking refuge at shelters during powerful Hurricane Irma.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd tweeted: “If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail.”

Judd tweeted later: “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders predators. Period.”

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Judd is known for being outspoken, according to The Orlando Sentinel.


 

Judd first tweeted that officers would be deployed at every shelter and would be “checking IDs.”

“Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed,” the tweet said.

Carrie Horstman, a spokeswoman for the office, confirmed officers would be checking IDs and will arrest those with a warrant. Horstman said it would not be possible for the officers to see what the warrant is, so it was possible some people with non-violent misdemeanor offenses could be taken into custody.

“Officers are legally obligated to take a person into custody if they have a warrant,” Horstman told The Orlando Sentinel.

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Horstman said the office did something similar in 2004.

“I was just trying to keep people informed ahead of time,” Horstman said. “We can’t allow sexual predators in the centers and shelters.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida criticized the move and said Judd “should focus on preparing for Irma, not burnishing your Joe-Arpaio-style ‘tough cop’ credentials with irresponsible tweets.”

Arpaio, a former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, was found guilty of criminal contempt for allegedly defying a judge’s 2011 order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Arpaio, who was dubbed “America’s toughest sheriff,” had been previously accused of a number of civil rights violations against Latinos. President Trump pardoned Arpaio last month.

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told The Orlando Sentinel he had not seen the tweets.

“I haven’t seen that. My expectation is that everyone needs to follow the evacuation orders and get to safety. I’d have to look at exactly what was said,’’ he said.

Rep. Carlos Smith, D-Fla., condemned the move and said it also victimized undocumented immigrants.

“The message has already been received by the 18,000 undocumented persons in Polk County,” Smith said. “This is not the message we need to be sending out with a disaster upon us.”

Horstman said the measure was enforced to ensure people were safe when seeking shelter.

“The Sheriff’s Office says the effort will allow residents to feel the shelters are safe and spur more turnout,” Horstman said.

“We hope it actually leads to more people turning themselves in.”


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