Mask order

Police patrol the Town Square in April as people gathered for lunch and discussion about re-opening Teton County’s economy. Town officials have directed the Jackson Police Department to start citing people who willfully defy mask orders.

Some of Jackson’s elected officials are tired of hearing people argue about masks.

The Town Council voted unanimously Friday during a specially called meeting for the town manager to instruct the Jackson Police Department to start citing people who defy mask orders.

“A lot has been done, but I think it’s pretty clear that more needs to be done here,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said. “I do think it’s our responsibility to make those kinds of policy decisions. We are not getting the compliance that these public health orders deserve.”

Since the meeting the state also issued a statewide mask order, which Teton County Attorney Erin Weisman said supersedes the county order.

“That’s an important point to be made,” Weisman told the News&Guide.

No mask-related citations have been issued in Teton County, but Weisman said that if they are her office will use prosecutorial discretion like it does in all criminal cases.

“My utmost concern is for community safety, and we are a community who cares deeply about one another,” she said. “With respect to all cases, my office will continue to exercise a reasoned, commonsense approach throughout this crisis.”

Interim Chief of Police Michelle Weber said her office is handling complaints as they come in, and officers are constantly informing people of mask requirements while out on patrol.

They are also looking into quarantine order violations.

“There are two circumstances we are investigating right now that could potentially lead to citations,” Weber said.

Officers are also working with START bus to educate riders about mask requirements. At least one bus rider wrote councilors to complain of the lack of enforcement after seeing another rider flout the mask rule.

During the town enforcement discussion Friday, Councilor Arne Jorgensen said the police department has already been hard at work.

“They have spent hours talking to businesses and individuals,” he said. “When they go out and make contact with people, even though they might not be receiving a citation, there are a lot of activities taking place.”

People with certain medical conditions are exempt from wearing masks, and that isn’t something police say they can question.

“There are people in our community who cannot wear masks,” Jorgensen said, “and it’s important to acknowledge that and we need to be respectful of that.”

Officers are sometimes using trespass notices to resolve a mask-related problem at a business. Last week police responded to a few incidents of anti-maskers becoming belligerent when asked to cover their faces. (See police blotter, page 23.)

Weber said “enforcement” comes in many forms.

“We address every complaint,” Weber said. “We are doing some type of enforcement every day.”

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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(1) comment

Melanie Harrice

A smart move from Mayor Muldoon and the Jackson Town Council. Will the Teton County Board of Commissioners follow suit directing TC sheriff’s officers and prosecutors to enforce? Or are they already doing so?

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