If you have a warrant, turn yourself in to the jail – it’s a secure shelter.”
A Florida sheriff’s office is receiving backlash after tweeting out a string of threats aimed at people evacuating Hurricane Irma.
On Wednesday, the official Twitter account for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which uses Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd’s photo as its profile picture, warned residents with warrants that if they seek refuge at a shelter because of Hurricane Irma, they risk arrest.
Though criticisms have largely been aimed at Judd specifically, it was public information officer Carrie Horstman who said she wrote the tweets on behalf of the office, The Tampa Bay Times reports.
If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed,” read one tweet, using an acronym for “law enforcement officers.”
Two other tweets from the account simply say that if a person has a warrant, they would be escorted from shelters.
Other Twitter users, including the ACLU of Florida, shot back, saying that Judd is exploiting a natural disaster and endangering lives. The group pointed out that most people with warrants have minor offenses.
The ACLU of Florida wrote in a statement that the “threatening tweets send the message that these individuals must choose between facing a natural disaster without aid and shelter or going to jail over things like unpaid traffic tickets.”
The group also compared Judd to Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was pardoned by President Donald Trump last month after being convicted of criminal contempt after violating an order in a racial profiling case. Arpaio had ignored the judge’s orders to stop detaining individuals solely because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.
Public information officer Horstman told the Tampa Bay Times that the office was simply trying to give fugitives fair warning so they had ample time to prepare for the storm.
“I was just trying to keep people informed ahead of time,” Horstman told the paper. “We can’t allow sexual predators in the centers and shelters.”
Judd seems to back up Horstman’s claim.
“Never before did I think that we’d be beat up for giving people a warning and keeping people safe,” Judd told local television crews in response to the backlash. “But hey, that’s okay.”