Enforcing mask order not law enforcement responsibility, area agencies say

MIAMI VALLEY — (UPDATE @ 9:55 p.m.) Hours after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a mandatory public health order for mask wearing in counties that fall under the state’s Level 3 Red Alert coronavirus advisory, several area law enforcement agencies are informing the public that it is not their duty to enforce the order.

>> Coronavirus: Gov. DeWine announces mandatory masks for counties under Level 3 alert

Wednesday night, Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said his office will not be actively searching for those not following the mandated mask order. Deputies will continue to educate the public about the order as they have with other health-related orders.

The Regional Dispatch Center has received several phone calls about the city’s mask ordinance as well as the governor’s order.

“We’d like to remind the public that 9-1-1 should only be used in the case of an emergency,” the sheriff said. “Please do not call 9-1-1 to report people who may not be complying with the mandated mask order.”

Miamisburg Police Chief John Sedlak said his department is not intending to enforce the order.

The Vandalia Police Division, in asking the public to comply with the order, issued the following statement Wednesday night: “Our officers will not be out looking for these violations; however we will evaluate complaints on a case-by-case basis. In the rare situations where there is overt defiance of the order, we will first educate individuals about the order and how they are in violation. Any citations would be a last resort option. We are more interested in the safety and well-being of the public as well as our officers. We encourage individuals to also report violations to the department of health.”

“I am not the mask police,” Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said in a Facebook Live post earlier Wednesday. “I’m not going to enforce any mask wearing. That is not my responsibility. That is not my job. People should be able to make that choice themselves.”

Other law enforcement agencies have echoed the enforcement decision of Jones, Streck and Vandalia police, specifically saying it’s a health-related order that law enforcement is not responsible to enforce.

“The City of Brookville Police Department continues to recommend social distancing practices and supports the initiative to wear a mask or face covering to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus,” the agency announced Wednesday morning. “Governor DeWine further indicated this mandate will be enforced by state and local officials. This is a health-related order, therefore the City of Brookville Police Department will not enforce this mandate.”

Like Montgomery County Sheriff Streck, Brookville police asked that people in the city not call 9-1-1 or non-emergency police numbers to report violations of the order.

The Huber Heights Police Division said if the department was notified of a problem, officers would respond and educate people on the order.

“If for some reason there was an issue, where education was not working, we would document the incident, then notify the prosecutor and the health department and allow them to follow up,” Huber Heights Sgt. William Garlow said.

Clayton police urged people with complaints about violations of the order to contact Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County at 937-225-5700.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County said its working with businesses in the county on enforcement.

“We definitely don’t want people to individually confront other customers in the store about not wearing masks,” said Dan Suffoletto, PHDMC spokesman. Suffoletto said customers should contact a manager with their concerns.

“A business can ask you to leave if they see you not wearing a mask,” he noted.

News Center 7 is reaching out to other law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County to see what plans are for enforcement.

Tuesday night, the Cincinnati Police Division announced that agency will not enforce the health order.