First of all, I am very proud of the men and women of the Battle Ground Police Department. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the national narrative about police reform, the officers and staff have responded with dignity and compassion to every question, every concern. I am also thankful to the citizens of Battle Ground who have shown overwhelming support for our police officers. We receive letters and gratitude nearly every day. Those symbols of appreciation mean the world to our officers and staff, and truly emphasize that we are all navigating through these events together, and that we all care about each other. Thank you!
A note about the new statewide face mask requirement: I realize there are a lot of questions about the new mandatory face masks required by the State. Please know that our officers care about every one of you, and we truly want for your safety as well as ours. We are all part of the community, and I have every confidence that our officers will continue to exercise the compassionate judgement you have come to expect. Since we have at the beginning of the statewide restrictions, BGPD officers will continue to do their best to educate and inform people about the information coming from our public health officials so that we can all return to economic and social norms as soon as possible.
I also want to address the perception that local police are going to start arresting people for COVID-19 related health violations. I think the Police Department has an obligation to educate people the best we can, but I believe the statewide face covering order is a public health and safety measure, it is not a mandate for law enforcement to detain, cite or arrest violators but rather an evidence-based and safety focused directive meant to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease. Governor Inslee himself stated, "We don’t want to have enforcement of this. Ideally, there won’t be any criminal or civil sanctions for individuals. We just think people will respond, as they had to the first stay home order.” I agree with the Governor and I’ll add that as a general matter we do not have the capacity to respond to complaints of “COVID-19 virus” violations, whether they are business violations, social distancing, or mask violations. I trust that people are fully capable of exercising good judgement about their personal health and the health of their neighbors.
It is also important to recognize that some people have a variety of medical conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. As Washingtonians, I believe we will continue to respect their need to be healthy by wearing masks when possible. However, as stated on the Washington State Coronavirus Response website page regarding face masks, if you see someone not wearing a mask – do nothing, “Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Just wear your mask and stay six feet away.”
There are important resources available to anyone with additional questions regarding COVID-19 or wearing of face coverings and masks. I strongly suggest you avail yourselves of these important community resources:
Stay Healthy in “Partnership with the Community,”
Chief Mike Fort
Battle Ground Police Department