Buzz, Climate Environment, Culture, Hurricane, Hurricane Irma, Sheriff

Sheriff tweets that anyone with a warrant seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma will be jailed

Shelters have been set up in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

With Florida facing down the barrel of a monstrous, record-shattering hurricane, a local sheriff in the state decided to make jokes about locking people up when they look for shelter.

Sheriff Grady Judd, of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, took to Twitter to let anyone with a warrant know that they would be unceremoniously locked up if they dared to seek refuge from the historic storm.

“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,” he joked on Wednesday, as 185 mph winds from Irma wreaked havoc and took lives in the Caribbean.

“If you have a warrant, turn yourself in to the jail — it’s a secure shelter,” he added 45 minutes later in case the mirth was missed first time round.

IDs will be checked and sex offenders and predators will not be allowed, another tweet said.

The reaction on Twitter to the comments was, shall we say, unfavorable.

Alt Sarah Sanders led the charge, reminding the sheriff that warrants can be issued for infractions as minor as a parking ticket, and asserting that his tweets could cause people to “risk death” to avoid shelters and subsequent arrest.

Journalist Kurt Eichenwald was among the other voices attacking the tweets, saying “this guy thinks nothing better to do in a devastating catastrophe that could kill many than chase outstanding warrants.”

Condemnation came thick and fast.

The response was equally as severe on Facebook. 

“Really disgusting that you would try and intimidate people into not seeking help. You’re disgraceful,” one poster wrote. “You’re a disgrace to public service in the face of a natural disaster. You should resign. Shame on you and your department, shame!” another exclaimed.

Many others reminded the sheriff of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when prisoners were left in abandoned jails for days as floodwaters rose, according to Human Rights Watch.

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

The tweets were still live at time of writing and the sheriff’s department was yet to respond.

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