Kent Police will educate people about the use of face masks in public, but it will not use the face covering order by Gov. Jay Inslee for a reason to detain, cite or arrest violators.
The Police Department posted a message Monday on its Facebook page because it said it had received a lot of questions from residents about masks to be worn during the COVID-19 pandemic as the state tries to reduce the number of cases and deaths. The department borrowed from the Washington State Patrol’s statement about its stance on the matter.
“The statewide face covering order is a public health and safety measure,” according to the statement. “It is not a mandate for law enforcement to detain, cite or arrest violators but rather an evidence-based and safety-focused directive meant to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease.”
The Kent Police Department said it will continue to communicate with, and encourage all Washingtonians to make safety-focused decisions that follow the health-based directives from the governor as well as state and local health officials.
Violating the order is a misdemeanor offense and carries penalties that include a jail sentence of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $100.
Inslee said when he announced the order last month that ideally there won’t be a need to enforce the new health order, because he said he believes people will voluntarily comply.
As of Tuesday, July 7, people are also required to wear face masks when entering businesses. Businesses are not allowed to serve customers who enter without masks. The state could shut down or fine businesses that do not comply.
The Police Department also addressed when officers wear face coverings.
“Kent Police officers are wearing masks to protect themselves and others while at work,” according to police. “They wear them in the station, and when contacting the public. You will at times see them without a mask, and that is generally when they are engaged in a task that requires a higher level of communication than a mask will allow. They also do not need to wear them while alone in their vehicles.”
Kent based its face mask policy on guidance from the state Department of Labor & Industries.
“As a general rule, cloth face coverings should be worn when not working alone,” according to L&I. “When interacting with the public, masks should be worn, but other public safety concerns may necessitate removing the mask for improved communication or to avoid the mask being a hazard. An individual alone in a car is permitted to not wear a facial covering. Two officers in a car is likely medium risk and a covering must be worn; other situations may need to be evaluated. Masks or face coverings are required when law enforcement officers are in a station house or other administrative building with frequent in-person interactions.”