Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers posted the following Wednesday after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the wearing of mandatory face coverings statewide.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced a statewide mandatory face covering order that will take effect Friday, June 26. After subsequent reports of cases increasing in counties, the governor and Wiesman extended the face covering requirement today to include the entire state of Washington.
“As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect all of us,” Inslee said during a press conference Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”
Starting Friday, every Washingtonian must wear a facial covering when in a public space, as mandated by the public health order signed by Wiesman. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces.
Technically, all these emergency proclamations issued by Governor Inslee under state law are enforceable as a misdemeanor crime.
However, officers have discretion in taking enforcement action; it is unreasonable, impractical and capricious to expect every officer to enforce every statute in every situation.
At HPD, we see this proclamation as something which we will just inform people of the governor’s edict. We believe matters of public health are best handled as education, not under threat of criminal enforcement.
The reality is our officers have more than enough to do in just keeping the peace every day. And remember just from a practical standpoint, due to COVID-19 concerns, jail bookings are greatly restricted and most courts are operating on a very limited basis.
In my opinion as the chief of police of this department, our officers issuing citations or making arrests for mask violations would not increase public safety.
I am also concerned the perception of enforcement related to the governor’s order places local police agencies at odds with the citizens we serve. To my knowledge, local agencies were not consulted before this order was issued.
I want to assure citizens concerned about their civil liberties that this order WILL NOT be used by our officers as a tool to stop, detain or demand identification from citizens who are not wearing a mask.
It would be best for everyone to manage compliance with this order themselves. It is important to remember some people cannot wear a mask (and are exempt) because of a medical condition. Nothing is served by confronting others and yelling at people (except being a good way to spread COVID-19).
If you are extremely concerned about individuals or businesses allegedly not following this latest order, please file a complaint with the governor’s office on their hotline or website form.
DO NOT CALL 911 to report alleged mask violations.
This is about all of our health. This is about education, not enforcement.
Hoquiam Chief of Police