PORT ANGELES – The Governor’s new statewide order mandating face coverings begins Friday.
A spokesman for Inslee said violation of the order would be a misdemeanor. Inslee himself said Tuesday that he’s hoping there won’t need to be any type of enforcement or sanctions for the mask requirement.
We checked in with local law enforcement to get a sense of how they see their role in terms of enforcement.
Sheriff Bill Benedict put it this way.
“It is not the intention of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to arrest or cite anyone for violating the Governor’s edict on masks. There are some situations where we could be forced to take enforcement, but it would not be for not wearing a mask. The example I’ll give you is, let’s say you go into a store and the the store’s policy and the governor’s policy is that you have to have a mask on. They’ll ask you to leave. If you don’t leave, your now trespassing. So we might take action on that.”
Benedict included government buildings in that policy as well, adding that the County Administrator has made masks mandatory on all county properties.
Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith says his officers will likely take a similar approach.
“I would refer people to the Governor’s announcement, where he said that he didn’t think that this should be like a burden on law enforcement. I believe that this direction is designed to be followed, but it wasn’t the intent for law enforcement to be out checking people. Officers will not be inquiring, if they see people, as to their medical conditions. Like the Sheriff said, you know, businesses have every right to ask people to comply and if they don’t comply then they would be asked to leave. Law Enforcement will only get involved if it was a trespass. It’s not my sense that officers will even, you know, be involved in enforcement situations with this new order.”
We asked Smith if there was any possibility of getting a citation for not wearing a mask. He said that because of booking restrictions, they don’t issue citations for misdemeanors anyway, only the occasional referral to the Prosecutor.
Benedict added that his emphasis was on voluntary compliance, and he hopes that the general public will also give their neighbors the benefit of the doubt when they see someone not wearing a mask.
“If you’re wearing a mask in public and you see someone who is not wearing a mask, please don’t call 9-1-1. Our resources are limited at best. We don’t need everyone snitching everyone out on this. In the end, we’re still looking for voluntary compliance.”