Sheriff departments react to mask mandate, some won’t enforce it

Some Arkansans are still refusing to wear a mask despite the governor’s statewide mandate. And in some areas, they might get by without wearing one.

ARKANSAS, USA — Some people refuse to wear a mask for their own personal reasons, and in some parts of Central Arkansas, they could get by without wearing one.

“We still live in America. This is not Russia, or China, or North or South Korea,” said Jeremy Ballinger, an Arkansan.

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Some people stand by their right to freedom, like Ballinger, who chooses not to wear a mask because he believes he has found holes in the governor’s statewide mask mandate.

“When you don’t even tell me what kind of mask that I need to wear — and basically, I haven’t heard anything. Just put something over your face. Just throw your t-shirt up over your nose and mouth,” said Ballinger.

Ballinger said he respects people who choose to wear a mask, but he is relying on his faith in God to keep him safe and healthy while taking other safety precautions against the coronavirus.

Beginning Monday, if people violate the state mandate, they could face a misdemeanor offense and a fine of up to $500 dollars.

But some local authorities, like the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department, have no plans of enforcing masks.

“We do not have the manpower to get out and start writing tickets for people not wearing masks,” said Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley.

John Staley said his department lacks funding, and while he supports the governor and encourages people to wear their masks, he believes fining violators isn’t the answer.

“I just don’t think that a ticket is going to change the behavior of somebody. It may actually have people do the opposite,” said Staley.

Governor Hutchinson responded Friday, saying enforcement comes down to local priority.

“That is a prerogative of the sheriff, a prerogative of the police department to set their enforcement priorities, and so I defer to them on that,” said Hutchinson.

If a private business requires a mask and someone chooses not to wear one, Sheriff Staley said his deputies will intervene in those situations.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said they will also make deputies available if businesses need them.

“If the person refuses to leave or abide by the request of the business, then we will apply enforcement actions, but we will not be actively seeking out people not wearing masks,” said Lt. Robert Garrett, Pulaski Co. Sheriff’s Office.

While Pulaski County deputies don’t have any immediate plans to start issuing citations, they hope the public will be responsible.

“If you choose not to wear a mask, stay away from others so you are not infringing on their right to stay healthy,” said Garrett.

RELATED: Little Rock nurse says it’s crucial young children also wear masks in public

During Friday’s press conference, the governor said he had plans to meet with the association representing sheriff departments on how to move forward together.

Arkansas’s mask mandate goes into effect on Monday, July 20.

You can click here to see the full list of rules.

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