DAVENPORT, Fla. - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd put out a warning to sexual offenders and predators, and even those with outstanding warrants, that they're not welcome at evacuation shelters.
Sheriff Judd Tweeted early Wednesday that sworn law enforcement officers will be at shelters checking IDs and that those who are sex offenders or predators are not allowed to stay. He went on to say that anyone with an outstanding warrant will also be escorted from the shelter to the Polk County Jail.
Other Twitter users, including the ACLU of Florida, fired back at Judd in response to the sheriff's series of Tweets, saying he is exploiting natural disaster and endangering lives.
The ACLU released a statement on Twitter saying people with warrants are dealing with non-violent offenses and pose no risk to those in a shelter and shouldn't have to worry about facing a natural disaster without aid to avoid going to jail over things like unpaid traffic tickets. "With a storm of Irma's size and ferocity bearing down on the people of our state, Sheriff Judd should be working to prepare his community, not burnishing his Joe Arpaio-style 'tough cop' credentials with a series of irresponsible tweets," the ACLU said.
"This definitely won't cause anyone to try to ride out the storm because they have too many unpaid parking tickets or whatever. Good job," said another Twitter user.
Sheriff Judd says he stands by his statements. "If you show up at a shelter, we're going to shelter you safely, but it's going to be in the county jail because we have a legal obligation to execute the warrant," Sheriff Judd told FOX 13.
The sheriff says that his tweets give all offenders fair warning, four or five days in advance, so those with warrants still have time to take care of their infractions and then go to a shelter if they choose to, or make other arrangements.
Sexual predators and offenders, however, are never welcome at shelters, he said, and which is something they are told when they are placed on the sex offender registry.
"In a time of potential disaster, there needs to be a place that you can run to and absolutely know you're safe," said Judd. "Do you want your five-year-old daughter sleeping next to a sexual predator?"