Many Police Departments Won't Enforce Whitmer's Mask Order

Gretchen Whitmer
Photo credit Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: State of Michigan)
By WWJ Newsradio 950
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Oakland County will issue tickets for mask violators; Instead the Oakland County Sheriffs Department will respond and take information to be forwarded to the health division, which will decide whether to forward it to the Attorney General for consideration of a citation.  

(WWJ) You can get fined $500 for failing to wear a mask in Michigan under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's newest executive order, however police officials across the state say they won't enforce it.

Livingston and Macomb County Sheriff's Departments, plus several on the west side of the state and Up North, say they will not be issuing citations.

For those who are essentially opting out, they say they will settle for encouraging people to wear masks when out in public. 

Why not enforce the order? There are a variety of explanations. Dan Abbott, Van Buren County Sheriff, questioned the validity of the order. He wrote on Facebook, "our office questions the legality of these orders and therefore we defer questions or complaints in regards to these orders to the state police or attorney general's office." 

Arenac County Sheriff Jim Mosciski said for his department it's a manpower issue. He said summer visitors lead to tripling the regular call volume when the weather heats up, so “We do not have the manpower to respond to mask violations.” Livingston County Sheriff Michael J. Murphy also cited a manpower issue when acknowledging his department would not enforce the order.

Macomb Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said he's concerned about having to protect employees from possible violent confrontations. 

“We want to tell them that there’s a chance sanctions (are) coming from the state, but it’s not coming from the sheriff’s office,” Wickersham said. “The sheriff’s office is going to be there to assist you, to make sure your businesses stay open and that you and your staff are going to be safe.”

Oakland County says it will enforce the order by responding to complaints and forwarding the information to the Health Division to decide whether to send it to the Attorney General, although Undersheriff Michael McCabe said in a statement that "well over 92% of the calls we get for violations have been unfounded."

This comes amid news that an Ohio man, a fun-loving veteran who was only 37 years old, contracted coronavirus and died after spelling out in a series of Facebook posts why he would not wear a mask. He believed media reports on the need for masks were "hype." 

Whitmer's spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told MLive the governor has done all she can to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents. And cops who ignore the law are putting lives at risk.

“Law enforcement officers who ignore the law put the lives of those they are sworn to protect at risk,” said Brown. “Face coverings are a simple, effective way to reduce the spread of this deadly disease. During a health crisis that has killed more than 6,000 people across the the state, we must all work together to defeat this disease.”

Under the newest mask order issued Friday, face coverings must be worn in all public spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces when a person is "unable to consistently maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household." Businesses must bar entry for anyone not wearing a mask. Details Here.

As for why she stiffened the mask order, Whitmer issued a statement saying, "The heroes on the front lines of this crisis have gone hours without taking their masks off every day – doctors, nurses, child care workers, grocery store workers. We owe it to them to wear our masks when we’re on a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy,” said Whitmer, in a statement. “Masks can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent. By wearing masks, we can save lives and protect our family, friends, and neighbors from the spread of COVID-19. And by wearing masks now, we can put our state in a stronger position so our kids can return to school safely in the fall. For the sake of your loved ones, let’s all mask up, Michigan.”