When Dodge City commissioners approved a 90-day citywide mask mandate Monday, a question of its enforcement swiftly circulated.
Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis said the police department will handle any call concerning the ordinance in the same manner it would any other city code violation.
"We will educate the public on the ordinance," Francis said. "If an individual has a qualified exemption as described in the ordinance, I would encourage them to simply say so."
Information regarding if a person can be arrested for simply not wearing a mask also made the rounds. According to Francis, the answer is no, not for violating the ordinance, but Francis did explain what could potentially lead to an arrest.
"It is important to understand that anytime a business requires something of its customers in order to be on their premise, the person does not have the right to refuse to comply and remain on the property," Francis said. "As an example, if a store manager were to say you must have a mask on to be in there and the person refused to comply, then the manager has complete authority to say you must leave.
"If you do not leave or comply with the mandate to put on a mask, then you would be committing criminal trespass.
"If you are in violation of the misdemeanor crime of criminal trespass in the presence of a law enforcement officer, you could be arrested on the charge of criminal trespass.
"Another thing to consider is the charge of interference with law enforcement (obstruction.)
"If an officer was to effect a temporary detention of a subject to investigate the possible violation of this mandate and the subject refused to provide identification in order to issue the ticket, the subject is now committing a new misdemeanor crime of interference with law enforcement.
"That, committed in the presence of said officer, is arrestable."
For anyone violating the ordinance, Francis said, the most that the department would do is issue a ticket to either the individual or the subject in control of the business.
"We would like to remind the public that the police department does not create laws, ordinances or mandates; that is the job of elected officials," Francis said. "The police department is tasked to enforce the laws appropriately."
To contact the writer, email email@example.com.