SHERIFF'S OFFICE ADOPTS POLICY CONCERNING GOVERNOR'S EXECUTIVE ORDER ON FACE COVERINGS
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is charged with protecting and serving all people without regard for the person's race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, ancestry, or disabilities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) issue has caused many debates among people and the best way to go about handling this threat to our health, safety, and welfare.
Yesterday, July 16th, the Governor of Arkansas issued Executive Order 20-43 that requires people to wear face coverings when out in public. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is compelled to follow the Governor's Executive Order as a matter of law until such time that it is either rescinded by the Governor or is successfully challenged in court. To that end, we have adopted a written policy that specifies how Sheriff's Office employees will operate under the EO 20-43 directive.
The Governor's Order, EO 20-43, basically requires the wearing of a mask or face covering in all indoor and outdoor settings when not around family members or when social distancing of at least 6 feet cannot be assured. There are a number of exemptions to this regulation. Specifically, the order states as follows:
As Sheriff, I feel that the citizens and visitors of Monroe County know when they should and should not wear a mask and whether they fall within one of the several exemptions of the face covering mandate.
Because EO 20-43 specifically states that law enforcement officers cannot detain, arrest, or confine any person for violating this order, and with the numerous exemptions allowed thereunder, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office will not respond to complaints of non-compliance of the mask directive in EO 20-43.
The Sheriff's Office will respond to complaint calls where a person has been asked by a local business to comply with the mask directive or leave the premises but then refuses to leave. This would constitute a criminal trespass matter that is a separate and distinct violation under the law.
As Sheriff, my personal opinions have no bearing on the decisions that are made in these situations. The Sheriff's Office does not make or pass laws, and we must rely on the courts to interpret the meaning of the language and provisions of the respective constitutions.
The Sheriff's Office policy only applies to actions and decisions undertaken by Sheriff's Deputies. It is not applicable to actions or decisions undertaken by other law enforcement agencies or jurisdictions in Monroe County.
Persons having questions or concerns about the health directive, or non-compliance of the Governor's Executive Order, should contact the Arkansas Department of Health at (501) 661-2000.
Sheriff Micheal K. Neal