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Law enforcement agencies across the state clarify their stance on the statewide mask mandate

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On Friday, Gov. Doug Burgum announced a statewide mask mandate. Less than 24 hours later, an area law enforcement agency spoke out on it.

Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee posted a video on Facebook implying that he wouldn’t follow the governor’s order. We had a chance to speak with him, as well as other law enforcement agencies in the region, about their stances on enforcing the State Health Officer’s mask requirement.

“In a nutshell, we will not be enforcing mandates. We will not be enforcing mandates on businesses,” said Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee in a video on Saturday.

In the four-minute video, Sheriff Lee said his department would leave enforcing the mandate up to the leadership of businesses. When we spoke to him on Monday, he said it was a poor choice of words.

“I realize my video probably wasn’t the clearest, concise thing I have ever put out. But it’s not that we aren’t following the mask mandate,” said Sheriff Lee.

He says instead, they will evaluate each situation on a case by case basis, and instead of issuing citations, they will focus on the education side of the order.

He added, “Certainly we want to take care of the safety of our constituents and our people in our county. But at the same time, we have a lot of people out in this area that really value their rights constitutional rights and freedoms and we have to take that into account as well.”

McKenzie County Sheriff Matthew Johansen also says he feels the mask mandate takes away from the liberty to live freely under the constitution, which is why his office won’t be enforcing mask mandates. In a letter released to county residents, Sheriff Johansen said, “the mandate is not a law.”

“We’re not going to be issuing any citations or anything like that. If there are any issues, we will educate people but we will not take any enforcement action,” said Sheriff Johansen.

In Ward County, Sheriff Bob Roed says they have every intention of following the order, and that he’s meeting with the state’s attorney to make sure they are following the rules correctly.

“Our goal is to work with the public and to get through this together. But in the most egregious situations, we will have to issue a citation for the infraction,” said Sheriff Roed.

Sheriff Johansen says that if a business asks a customer to leave for not wearing a mask, and they refuse, they can be charged with trespassing. But the sheriff was intent on saying they will not issue citations for not wearing a mask.

In Ward County, if you are given a citation you will be allowed to take a plea and pay $50. If you go to court to fight the charge, you could have to pay up to $1,000.

Other law enforcement agencies have released statements as well. You can see them by clicking on the links below:

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