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To Arrest, or Not To Arrest? U.S. Police Explain Why They Won’t Enforce Mask Mandates

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Masks

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t’s not just the citizens of the United States who are assessing their constitutional rights relating to wearing masks. While politicians are legislating mandates with a single pen stroke, it is the police forces that are left to pick up the pieces. Just one day after Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an order requiring masks to be worn in public, one police department dissented.

Lang Holland, the chief of police in Marshall, Arkansas a town of only about 1,300 in the Ozarks declared his department would not enforce the mask mandate in his town. “All I’m saying is if you want to wear a mask, you have the freedom to choose that. It should not be dictated by the nanny state” said Holland.

Despite the constitutionality debate of mask mandates, many neglect to think of the police departments and their abilities or resources to carry out the legislation. Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley in Central Arkansas said, “I support the governor’s position and his decision, but we’re not going to be out writing tickets for masks.”

The Associated Press reported that many police departments have similar sentiments, often due to lack of manpower. “Several sheriffs in neighboring Texas have also said they wouldn’t enforce a mask requirement issued by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott” reported the AP. In Montana, a “group of 38 sheriffs…signed an op-ed this month saying they believe that the mask requirement issued by the state’s Democratic governor this month ‘is not a mandate for law enforcement to issue citations and arrest violators.”

Alabama’s Bay Minette Police Department took to Facebook to make the statement “We as law enforcement are NOT the social distancing police OR the face mask police. Just be responsible, that’s all, and be safe.” In Indianapolis, Republican Governor Eric Holcomb announced the mask requirement saying violators could face a misdemeanor charge.

However, after objections from law enforcement officials and conservative legislators, Holcomb dropped the criminal penalty from the mandate. Indiana Senate leaders “praised Holcomb’s decision to drop the possible misdemeanor offense, which could have carried penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and a maximum 180 days in jail,” reported the AP.

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