San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos acknowledged on Wednesday that Mother’s Day events designed to build community actually brought deputies a little too close to the people they serve. Videos and photos from the events show uniformed deputies ignoring social distancing rules outlined by health officials.

Deputies participated in events on Sunday at Main Street Housing and Moonridge as well as a location over the hill. They were there under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Activities League, which posted photos and videos on social media. Bolanos said deputies handed out flowers to mothers and were there to build upon important relationships in diverse communities.

“It was a great idea,” he said, “but they went too far. Clearly, they were not following social distancing recommendations.

“I’m going to remind my personnel of those recommendations,” he said after the photos were brought to his attention.

Sheriff’s deputies are on the front lines of efforts to enforce county rules designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local health officials say everyone should maintain six feet of distance from others who are not in their own household. On the coast, many — including Half Moon Bay City Councilmembers — have argued that deputies should take a more aggressive approach to enforcing the stay-at-home and social distancing rules.

Those rules are particularly important for older people who are at elevated risk due to the virus. In the video, at least two deputies can be seen dancing and touching women who appear to be in the age range of particular concern.

Sunday’s event was a partnership between the Sheriff’s Activities League, which participates in many community events as a way to build trust and rapport, and Ayudando Latinos A Soñar. ALAS works with the Coastside Latino community in a number of ways, including to provide face masks and food during the pandemic. The event included a mariachi band that drew a crowd at one Coastside stop.

Bolanos said he appreciated the spirit of Sunday’s events but that deputies had to be cognizant of the rules they also have to enforce. He said he was sure the vast majority of his staff takes the rules seriously.

“I don’t expect to see any more (pictures like that), but then I didn’t expect to see these,” he said.

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