Washakie County Sheriff: “We Are Not Going To Be The Mask Police”

in Coronavirus/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Washakie County Sheriff’s Department will not act as “the mask police” and won’t track anyone down for not following the orders, according to Sheriff Steven Rakness.

Rakness told county residents that he hoped all of them would practice common sense when it came to wearing masks in public places to slow the spread of coronavirus.

However, he added law enforcement officers would not issue citations to those not wearing a mask in keeping with the county’s mask mandate.

“We here at the Washakie County Sheriff’s Office and the Worland Police Department are not going to be the mask police, nor are we going to track people down for not wearing a mask,” he said.

Rakness urged residents to act on their own to comply with the order in order to stop the spread of the virus. The sheriff added that either the sheriff’s department or the Worland Police Department may speak with business owners if they find out owners aren’t following the order.

“Be respectful and abide by what local business[es] or facilities have in place regarding the…mandate to wear a mask,” he said. “We will enforce incidents involving breach of peace, disorderly conduct and interference with a peace officer.”

He added that the city, county and state couldn’t handle another shutdown such as the one imposed in the spring to slow the spread of the illness.

“What we don’t want is another economic shutdown. I don’t think we can weather another shutdown again,” Rakness said. “I’m doing my best here to keep the Law Enforcement Center opened up and running, making sure County residents can utilize our services for background checks, finger-prints, concealed firearms permits and jail inmate visitation. So please, help us help you. I know no one likes this, I don’t either, but we need to stop the spread of this virus.”

The Lincoln County sheriff and attorney also recently spoke out, saying they wouldn’t enforce the mandate, but still urged people to use caution and common sense.

Rakness’ comments came after Washakie County commissioners said they were left out of the decision by Dr. Ed Zimmerman, the county’s health officer, to ask the state to approve a mask mandate for the county.

On Monday, commissioners terminated Zimmerman’s contract to serve as county health officer. Zimmerman said he was removed because of the mask order, however, Fred Frandson, commission chairman, said the decision had nothing to do with the mask order.

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