STOCK Fitchburg police March 2020

The police station in the center of the city.

Activities like going to work, patronizing city parks and playing basketball and soccer used to be commonplace and often encouraged.

For now, under the state’s “Safer at Home” order, those are the kind of activities City of Fitchburg police officers warn against.

Chief Chad Brecklin said the department’s officers haven’t had to issue any citations as of April 23, but have fielded between 15 and 20 complaints since “Safer at Home” went into effect on March 25.

“We’ve been taking an educational approach to it,” he said. “It’s certainly not our intent to use enforcement as a primary means to gain compliance in these situations.

“We reserve that enforcement piece really for repeat violations, or such egregious violations of the order that almost necessitate immediate enforcement,” Brecklin added.

Brecklin said there’s been a handful of landlord-related complaints as well, which he said was a moving target for the first few weeks after the order took effect as to whether services or businesses were essential.

“As time has gone on here, a lot of those questions have been clarified, and I think for the most part, there’s been good compliance across the board, whether it’s businesses, landlords or the public at large,” he said.

Brecklin said enforcing “Safer at Home” was a challenge for the department early on because of its learning curve for officers.

There aren’t any other laws like it that police have ever had to enforce, Brecklin added, so part of that adjustment period was waiting for the state to give clearer instructions on what was allowed and not allowed, and what businesses were deemed essential.

Some of the learning curve was determining where the police’s responsibility in the enforcement started and ended, and what should be dealt with by Public Health Madison and Dane County, and what needed the city attorney to step in, Brecklin said.

“You have the challenge of figuring out what is our role in this process, how is our role defined and what are the resources … and guidance that we’re being provided to carry out those roles,” he said. “We had to figure it out, so to speak, and determine where our resources will be placed from a priority basis.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.