Wabash Valley law enforcement and their response to Indiana's face covering mandate

Earlier this week, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced a face-covering mandate in response to the rising COVID-19 numbers in the state. Here is what local law enforcement had to say about enforcement.

Posted: Jul 24, 2020 1:40 PM
Updated: Jul 24, 2020 2:05 PM

WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTHI) - Earlier this week, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced a face-covering mandate in response to the rising COVID-19 numbers in the state.

It is set to start on Monday, July 27.

LINK | INDIANA'S MASK MANDATE TO START ON JULY 27 - HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Since then, police and other officials have weighed in on enforcement. See their statements here.

As we receive more responses, we will place them here.

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VIGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Vigo County Sheriff’s Deputies will not stop or detain citizens for not wearing a mask. My staff will not be issuing citations or taking anyone to jail for violations of the Governor’s order which takes effect July 27. Our office will not respond solely to a reported violation of this order. Please do not call the Sheriff’s Office or 911 Dispatch to report violations of this order.

Any calls or complaints about individuals not wearing a mask or businesses not requiring patrons to wear a mask should be directed to State or County Health Departments or agencies.

Individual businesses or organizations reserve the right to deny entry or refuse service to an individual that refuses to wear a mask. Refusal to leave a business or organization when asked could be treated as criminal trespass with legal ramifications.

Please be respectful when addressing others about mask issues. I support social distancing and wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible. Please do your part to help keep our community safe.

John Plasse
Vigo County Sheriff

BLOOMFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT

To our Citizens,
As you are likely aware, this week Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order mandating the wearing of masks in public places, beginning Monday July 27, 2020.
I have received several questions regarding the new executive order and it's enforcement.

The officers of the Bloomfield police department will not stop or detain any citizen for not wearing a mask. We will not be issuing any citations, or taking anyone to jail for a violation of this order.

Please do not call dispatch or utilize an emergency 911 line to report violations of this order, Our officers will not respond solely to a reported violation of this order.

Please know that a business or organization reserve the right to deny entry, and/or refuse service to an individual.

Please respect the business practices, requests & their employees.
We will get through these trying times if we all work together.

Kenneth Tharp, Marshal
Bloomfield Police Department

SULLIVAN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

To the Citizens of Sullivan County.

As you are likely aware, this week Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order mandating the wearing of masks in public places, beginning Monday July 27, 2020.

As your Sheriff, I have received several questions, therefore, I feel it is important to address our position concerning enforcement of this order.

Sullivan County Sheriff’s deputies will not stop or detain a citizen for not wearing a mask.

My staff will not be issuing citations, or taking anyone to jail for a violation of this order.

Our agency will not respond solely to a reported violation of this order.
Therefore, please do not call the Sheriff’s Office or 911 dispatch to report violations of this order.

As sworn officials we will uphold the Constitution of the United States and enforce the laws of the State of Indiana, which were put into place by our elected legislators.

Please know that a business or organization reserves the right to deny entry, and/ or refuse service to an individual.

Failure to leave a business or organization after being asked to do so, could be considered trespassing, creating an unwanted legal situation for yourself.

Because of the unique responsibilities inside our facility, masks are required inside the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and Jail.
My staff and I will be wearing masks when interacting with the public, while on duty, or whenever appearing in the uniform of the department, unless safety dictates otherwise.

We too look forward to the day when life returns back to “normal“.
As a community, we will get through these trying times together.
Personally, I support wearing a mask and social distancing. I just don’t feel it’s reasonable to detain or arrest those who choose not to.

Stay safe,
Clark Cottom
Sheriff
Sullivan County

KNOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Governor Eric Holcomb has mandated the use of masks in all public indoor spaces and outdoor spaces when social distancing is not possible.

The governor’s statement says that failure to comply will be a crime, specifically a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000.

As your Sheriff I continue to encourage the use of masks whenever it is needed, but the Knox County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing or issuing citations for failure to comply with this order. Again, I encourage those at high risk or those unable to social distance themselves to continue wearing a mask while in public.

Please do not contact the Sheriff’s Office or the Knox County Central Dispatch regarding violations of this executive order. Instead, you may contact the Indiana State Department of Health with any concerns or complaints. If a disturbance or other issue were to develop, deputies would respond as always; however, we will not respond solely for the allegations of violation of the executive order. Please remember that any business organization may refuse entry or service to any individual who refuses to wear a mask.

Sheriff Doug Vantlin

KNOX COUNTY PROSECUTOR DIRK CARNAHAN

"Governor Eric Holcomb has mandated the use of masks in all public indoor spaces and outdoor spaces when social distancing is not possible. The governor’s statement says that failure to comply will be a crime, specifically a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1000.

Attorney General Curtis Hill promptly issued a legal opinion that the Governor does not have the authority to criminalize the refusal to wear a mask without an act of the legislature.

Following these actions, I have been contacted by law enforcement officers and citizens who are asking how this mandate will affect Knox County.

Our citizens have strong opinions both for and against wearing masks. These arguments have pitted friends and neighbors against each other.
I continue to encourage the use of masks, but do not believe arresting and jailing those who do not wear masks is appropriate.

A Class B misdemeanor is the same level offense as driving a vehicle under the influence or possessing certain dangerous or addictive drugs.

An arrest can have devastating consequences on life, health, employment and reputation. This is one of the reasons why our legislature has a very deliberate process to pass laws creating new crimes.

Our community faces issues related to drug abuse and violent crime. Our law enforcement officers deal with a climate of distrust and uneasiness. Arresting and jailing our citizens for failing to wear a mask would burden our courts, limit our ability to prosecute more serious crimes and create unnecessary conflict between our citizens and law enforcement. A citizen arrested and jailed for not wearing a mask could face consequences including losing work, being unable to care for themselves or family, custody issues, stress, anxiety, financial hardship, and a nearly endless list of potentially devastating outcomes.

While I will continue to encourage the use of masks in public spaces and by those who are most at risk, I will not support the arrest of our citizens for not wearing a mask.

I agree with the Attorney General that our Governor, despite the best intentions, lacks the authority to mandate wearing of masks without involving the legislative representatives of our citizens. I also do not support criminalizing this behavior in a way that will harm our ability to investigate and prosecute existing crimes while potentially devastating an otherwise innocent citizen. My office will not prosecute any of our citizens for not wearing a mask as mandated by the Governor."

DAVIESS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Since Governor Holcomb’s announcement mandating masks be worn in public beginning Monday July 27th 2020, we would like to clarify some questions.

The refusal or failure for any one individual to wear a mask in public starting July 27th 2020, as mandated by Governor Holcomb, does not constitute a crime or an enforceable action by the police. Any calls or complaints about individuals not wearing a mask or business not requiring patrons to wear a mask should be directed to the State or County Health Department or agencies. Deputies of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office will not be dispatched for the sole purpose of responding to those who fail to wear or refuse to wear a mask in public.

Whether you support or oppose the Governor’s decision, we would ask that you please be respectful or diplomatic when addressing another person about mask concerns, or if you are addressed about your decision to wear or not wear a mask. As Governor Holcomb stated in his briefing the “mask police” will not be showing up to enforce the order. However, if a business or organization calls to advise of a disturbance that develops Deputies will respond. Additionally, any business or organization may refuse service to any one individual who refuses to wear a mask. Refusal to leave the business or organization when asked, could be treated as Criminal Trespass, with legal ramifications.

We understand these are trying times for all. If we work together and make good decisions our hope is to return to some level of normalcy one day soon.

Thank you for your cooperation.

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TERRE HAUTE POLICE DEPARTMENT 

We have received inquiries of how the Terre Haute Police Department will enforce Governor Holcomb’s mask mandate.

The Terre Haute Police Department will not be citing or arresting people for not wearing a mask. Governor Holcomb mentioned in his press conference that violating the order could result in a B misdemeanor charge, however, he did not want the police out looking to enforce the order (similar to the recent “Hunker Down” order).

With that said, it is the right of a private business to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask. If one refuses to leave a private business, that then becomes a problem of trespassing.

The Terre Haute Police Department will work with and support the needs of our businesses. Please do not call Central Dispatch with complaints of people not wearing masks. Please, wear your mask (especially when social distancing is not possible), use social distancing, be courteous, and please be patient.

We will get through this pandemic together.

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