Serving Franklin County, WA

Pullman police to enforce mask, social distancing orders

PULLMAN — Police Chief Gary Jenkins has authorized officers to ticket individuals who refuse to wear a mask while coronavirus orders from Gov. Jay Inslee remain in effect.

In a press release Wednesday, Aug. 19, on the decision to allow enforcement of mask mandates, Jenkins said his officers “stand between those who are law-abiding and those whose actions risk the health and safety of others.”

“Violators of the governor’s proclamations not only put the violator’s health at risk, but the health of our entire community,” he said, noting officers will be enforcing facemask and social distancing requirements issued by the state as well as the local health board.

Citing Revised Code of Washington 43.06.220(5), Jenkins said violators could be charged with a gross misdemeanor. He also cited R.C.W.s 70.05.120(4) and 9A.84.020, noting violators could also face misdemeanor charges.

And at the city level, he also threatened using Pullman City Code 5.05.060 to issue civil citations to those failing to wear a mask.

Jenkins said pointed out that Washington State University students would additionally be referred to the Center for Community Standards for possible other actions.

Whitman County Prosecuting Attorney Denis Tracey hopes it won’t come to that.

If someone is arrested or cited for a gross misdemeanor, his office would be tasked with prosecuting the case. And prosecution would likely come down to one word — intent.

“I do not intend to prosecute somebody who is not intending to violate the law,” he said, noting that people often fail to even think about putting on a mask for routine activities. “That is an easy decision to make.”

In other instances, he would evaluate on a case-by-case basis, he said.

With few or no other law enforcement agencies in the state stepping into the fray, he said he hopes police will use other tools before arresting anyone.

“It’s very unlikely police will issue a citation,” he said. “The first option would be education.”

He believes officers will attempt to “gain compliance” before citing or arresting.

“But it someone decides come hell or high water they are bound and determined to violate the law, not follow health department recommendations, and not follow the governor’s orders, then I’ll have to decide what to do,” he said. “I’m hoping citizenship will prevail.”

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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