Area law enforcement agencies say they will focus on crime and public safety not face covering complaints

Several area law enforcement agencies including the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office, Dunn County Sheriff’s Office and the Glenwood City Police Department have publicly stated that their agencies will continue to focus on crimes and public safety offenses as opposed to seeking out or responding to complaints about those not wearing state-mandated fask masks or coverings.

Below are the responses that these agencies have posted on their website or Facebook page.

St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office

Governor Evers has released an Executive Order regarding the wearing of face coverings in certain situations as a result of the public health crisis. This topic has divided so many in our communities for different reasons. However, let me share my position from the public safety standpoint while recognizing that this is a serious health concern.

There is a difference between public safety and public health. Our deputies have a myriad of duties and situations to respond to. Many of these are centered around protecting the safety of the public, and to investigate crimes and arrest criminals. This virus is a public health concern, and I feel should be left to public health officials. Public safety duties include investigating crimes, responding to crashes and tending to victims, assisting at medical calls, dealing with those in mental health crisis and domestic situations. From a practical standpoint and with limited staff resources, having law enforcement respond to investigate someone not wearing a mask (where the penalty is a civil forfeiture, not a crime), removes deputies from doing what the citizens look for us to do. Calling 911 to report mask violations may also have unintended consequences of tying up emergency dispatch lines.

While this public health crisis impacts each one of us differently, I encourage every citizen to look out for and respect the wishes of those who may be most at risk to this virus.

While the governor likely has noble intentions, the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office will continue to focus on crimes and public safety offenses, as opposed to seeking out or responding to complaints about those without face coverings.

For more information and Covid-19 resources, visit https://www.sccwi.gov/covid19.

Dunn County Sheriff’s Office

Yesterday, the Governor issued Executive Order #82, mandating the use of face coverings for all individuals who are indoors or in enclosed spaces who are present in the same room or enclosed space with someone who is not a member of that individual’s household or living unit. Following the Governor’s announcement of Executive Order #82, we have received a number of inquiries regarding the enforcement of that Order. The Dunn County Sheriff’s Office supports individual actions that can be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Those actions include but are not limited to social distancing, proper washing of hands, use of hand sanitizers and the use of proper protective personal equipment (PPE), including masks. Additionally, we appreciate the efforts of business owners who have taken numerous steps to keep people healthy including but not limited to the use of safety barriers, social distance arrangements, as well as disinfecting procedures. We understand that some individuals may have medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from utilizing masks.

In order to provide some clarification, please be advised that the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office will not be responding to complaints of individuals violating the Governor’s mandate, nor will it be taking any direct law enforcement action as it relates to the Governor’s face covering mandate. Consistent with our understanding of Executive Order #82, the goal is compliance and education and is not meant to be punitive. However, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office will continue to respond to reports or complaints from a business owner, manager or other premise owner who has already requested that an individual leave a premise for failing to comply with the face covering mandate as it relates to that specific premise. We anticipate that these circumstances will be rare, but enforcement is necessary under these circumstances because they are situations where a disturbance may be likely. In those situations, our focus is not on the face covering order itself, but rather the fact that the individual is not wanted in a particular place, that the individual has been asked to leave and has not complied with the request of the person in control of that premise. This enforcement response is consistent with most, if not all, of the other Sheriff’s Offices throughout Northwest Wisconsin. We anticipate more information about the enforcement of the Governor’s executive order to come from the Governor’s Office or the Wisconsin Attorney General within the next few days. At this time, it is not clear who the Governor has designated to be responsible for the primary enforcement of the face covering mandate.

A frequently asked questions (FAQ) document is available here.

For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage

Glenwood City Police Department

Yesterday (July 30, 2020) Governor Evers issued an executive order requiring wearing face masks in certain situation. law enforcement has the ability to use discretionary authority when enforcing the law. This discretionary authority is a decision-making process that helps law enforcement evalute the situation and choose a course of action.

As such, the Glenwood City Police Departmetn will be exercising that discretionary authority and will not participate in the enforcement of the governor’s face mask order.

The Glenwood City Police Department will continue to focus n crimes and public safety offenses, as opposed to seeking out or responding to complaints about those without face coverings. I encourage everyone to do what hey believe is the best for you and your family. If you choose to wear a mask, we defend that right. If not, we defend that right as well.

Robert J. Darwin, Glenwood City Chief of Police

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