Law enforcement: Few incidents since mask mandate

HOUGHTON — More than a week after the statewide mask mandate went into effect, local law enforcement say they haven’t received many complaints.

Starting July 13, people in Michigan are required to wear masks in enclosed public spaces and in outside areas with large crowds.

Not many calls have come in to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Brian McLean said. 

Because of the distance involved — 1,033 square miles — the county only plans to issue citations if the people who aren’t wearing masks are also behaving in an irresponsible or threatening manner, he said. 

“If you go out to a Sidnaw diner, get a hamburger to go and somebody sees him and says ‘Hey, he wasn’t wearing a mask,’ sorry, that’s 85 miles, depending on where a car is,” he said.  “If he goes there and he causes a scene, and they feel threatened, we’ll go.”

Maks-wearing has gone dramatically up since the new order, Houghton Police Chief John Donnelly said. When the department does receive calls, they will take an educational approach. 

Some of that is leading by example; the officers wear masks when making visits. They also tell people what they are required to do under law. They’ve also incorporated suggestions from other people; wearing a face shield if a person finds masks too uncomfortable. 

“Information changes every day, and we try to change with it,” Donnelly said. 

After a rash of complaints to the Michigan State Police Calumet Post during the initial outbreak, things have settled down, said Sgt. Matt Djerf.  

In cases where someone files a complaint, they will consult with the prosecutor and educate the person or business on the law. 

“We run things through with the prosecutor and the prosecutor will give us direction on where she wants us to go with something,” she said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of problems, truthfully.”

Djerf was not aware of any cases where a business had called complaining about someone refusing to wear a mask. There had been some calls from people concerned businesses weren’t taking precautions. Most calls came in the early days of the shutdown, with regards to businesses staying open under the “essential industry” designation.

“We had a lot of people calling and complaining about their employers,” he said.


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