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Police to use discretion with mask mandate

The Minot Police Department will take a discretionary approach to enforcing a mask mandate, with the hope of writing few citations

Police Chief John Klug told the Minot City Council Monday that the State Health Officer’s order, announced by the governor Friday night, can best be met with public education.

“The number one way we’re going to try to resolve any complaints we respond to is just try to inform them of what the order is, make sure they understand it, ask them to comply with that order and, hopefully, they will do that,” he said. “If they don’t, right now we have directed our staff to issue written warnings, and we also have gotten some direction from the district court and the State’s Attorney’s Office over the weekend.”

That direction states violations will result in a $50 fine if offenders plead guilty. Otherwise, an offense will be treated as an infraction, subject to a fine up to $1,000.

“I think we do have to enforce it. It is an order from a governor, and there is a state law that directs us to enforce that law. So we will do it, but we will do it with discretion, and we want to make sure that we do it fairly across the board,” Klug said. “We want to give people an opportunity, but some people just have stood up to us and said, ‘We’re not going to do it.'”

As of Monday, the police department had not written any citations, he said.

The council also voted Monday to extend masking requirements imposed in August for city employees while on the job and extend an October requirement that visitors to city buildings wear masks. Both masking policies would have expired Monday if not extended. The mandates will remain in place until the pandemic emergency ends unless modified or terminated earlier by the council. Unless extended, the governor’s mask mandate expires Dec. 13.

Ward County Sheriff Robert Roed told the Ward County Commission Tuesday that the department will respond to complaints outside of cities that have their own police departments.

“We are not going to be aggressively pursuing this,” he said. “We as law enforcement officers cannot determine which laws we will enforce and which ones we want to enforce so we’re not refusing to enforce the mandate. We do have a certain amount of discretion, though, and we’re exercising a lot of discretion in this.

“We hoping that the public would cooperate and be respectful with each other,” he added. “We’re just looking for cooperation from the public and trying to get through this together as a county.”

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