Law enforcement hesitant to enforce mask mand

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Both the Eureka Springs Police Chief Brian Young and Carroll County Sheriff Jim Ross have yet to have an officer issue one warning or ticket for someone violating of the state’s mask mandate designed to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

In an email to the Independent Nov. 9, Young wrote, “We are not ‘refusing’ to enforce anything. We as an agency are only saying as we interpret the law, or Order and backed by the City Attorney, are not lawfully able to unless there is another ‘Lawful’ reason to be able to detain a person.”

Young pointed to a sentence in the governor’s emergency declaration that states:

“No law enforcement officer or local official may detain, arrest or confine in jail any person for violation of this order.” Young wrote next to that portion of the law: “Therefore, there would have to be another violation in order for us to detain a person.”

Resident Crystal Ursin said she doesn’t understand that reasoning.

“Why does he keep harping on the word detain?” Ursin asks. “The governor is not asking them to detain anyone. He’s asking for police to give people a warning and then, if they break the law again, to issue a ticket just like you do in a traffic stop. You don’t detain anyone. You write up a citation. It seems like he’s purposely confusing the issue.”

Mayor Butch Berry wrote in an email that he has requested an opinion on the chief’s interpretation of the mandate from the city attorney. The opinion had not been issued at press time.

Ross said in an email Nov. 9 that he had nothing to add to his statement to the media in July. That statement said: “I believe our citizens know when they should and should not wear a mask. I will be leaving it to our citizens to determine whether or not they fall under one of the exemptions provided in the Governor’s mandate.

“While my Deputies stay inundated with calls for service, we will nonetheless respond to any business located outside city jurisdictions related to individuals failing to comply with the mandate (provided the owner has requested the patron wear a mask or leave the premises).

“We will handle each call on a case by case basis, and as low key as possible. Our friends and neighbors can trust the Sheriff’s Office will do what is right.”

Multiple police departments and sheriff’s offices in Arkansas have indicated the mask mandate will not be enforced. E-mails to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office regarding the enforcement of mask mandates was not returned prior to deadline.

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