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Weld County Sheriff’s Office stance on face mask mandate

Posted on 07/22/2020

We understand sometimes a message can get lost in translation in a 60-second newscast or a 10-inch news story, so the Weld County Sheriff’s Office would like to make clear where we stand on Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order mandating the wearing of face masks in public.

Our comment last week about whether we would "enforce" the mask mandate stemmed from a question we received from several media outlets asking if residents should expect to see the sheriff's office issuing fines or arresting people for not wearing a face mask. The answer to that question is no.

An executive order is not the same thing as a law passed by the state legislature. There is no citation in Colorado’s Criminal Code that states a person is breaking the law by not wearing a face mask in public. We therefore don’t think we have the authority to fine or arrest someone for not wearing a face mask.

Last week, we heard from a lot of people both in Weld County and throughout the state who think it is our job to lock anyone up who is not wearing a face mask. We don't think that is a reasonable response to the governor's executive order, which is why our deputies are going to encourage people to voluntarily comply with the order when we see them in public not wearing a face mask. We think it is more reasonable to have that conversation with people and ask them to do the right thing not only for their health, but also for the safety and well-being of others.

Weld County businesses are required to adhere to the face mask mandate or run the risk of losing their license, which is issued and controlled by the state. We are asking residents, regardless of how they feel about wearing a face mask, to give their local businessowners a break and comply with the order when shopping in their stores. It’s not their fault the mask mandate was issued. Anyone who fights with a businessowner or an employee, refuses to leave a business when asked or in some other way causes an unlawful disturbance will be arrested.

Furthermore, holding a valid Concealed Handgun Permit and carrying a concealed weapon is not a valid excuse for not wearing a face mask. Nowhere in Colorado law does it state one cannot wear a face mask and lawfully carry a concealed weapon at the same time.

Even though law enforcement agencies are exempt, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams made the decision to comply with the order after it was issued last Thursday. Residents can expect to see our deputies wearing face masks when they interact with the public and in situations when social distancing isn’t an option.