Region’s law enforcement agencies show no interest in enforcing mandatory masks rule

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North Central Washington law enforcement agencies appear to have no interest in enforcing Gov. Jay Inslee’s order that all Washington residents wear face coverings in public places.

A short joint statement from the North Central Washington Law Enforcement Leadership group Wednesday said the issue is not a “mandate for law enforcement response.”

Earlier Wednesday the Grant County Sheriff said his deputies won’t be issuing tickets to or arresting people not wearing masks in public places, as ordered by Inslee on Tuesday.

“The Grant County Sheriff’s Office has much larger public safety priorities than writing a ticket for a person not wearing a mask,” said Sheriff Tom Jones.

Inslee issued the statewide mandatory face-covering order after COVID-19 cases spiked in recent days in some counties, including Grant County.

The law enforcement leadership group is comprised of the Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan County sheriffs and the police chiefs of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.

Their statement reads:

“In response to many inquiries on the Governor’s recent proclamation regarding face coverings, we want to communicate we will continue to focus on crimes and criminals which impact public safety. The statewide face covering order is a public health and safety measure, it is not a mandate for local law enforcement response. We encourage our community to take the necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of all. “

In his statement, Grant County Sheriff Jones said law enforcement agencies have discretion on enforcing laws based on situations and resources.

“Our jail is on restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and therefore violations of the Governor’s order will not meet the booking criteria,” Jones said. “I have full trust in the residents and business owners of our great county that they will continue to use common sense and good judgment to be safe. Their efforts will support Grant County moving to Phase 3 of the reopening plan.”

Grant County is currently in Phase 2 of Inslee’s Safe Start plan, which allowed many businesses to reopen under numerous conditions.

The county was preparing to apply to move to Phase 3 before positive cases began spiking last week.