UTAH COUNTY, Utah, Sept. 21, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith is clarifying his position on a potential mask mandate.
On Friday, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office released information regarding statements made by Smith in which he stated that he would not have his deputies arrest people for violating mask mandates, should any such mandates be ordered, said a news release.
“Many people have reached out with comments or questions about his position,” the news release said. “On Sunday, Sheriff Smith responded to a question on Facebook that asked: ‘Why won’t you enforce the mask mandate?’ To be clear, other than a couple of cities and many businesses, there has not yet been a mandate county wide related to the wearing of masks during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Sheriff Smith responded to the question by saying: “The spikes in the positive COVID tests are coming out of our two major universities in the county that recently started up bringing approximately 60,000 new students into the area. Both universities already have very strict mask mandates. The response should be concentrated on the problem area, not the entire population of the county as is being suggested.”
Smith added: “I find it interesting that the nation is demanding police reform, yet every time there is any crisis the response is, pass a law and let the police worry about it. Then, the only resource provided to the police is arrest or citation. I believe we can do better than that.
“This is a health issue, a community issue, and should be addressed as such. It should not be criminalized. The federal government has given Utah hundreds of millions of dollars to address this issue, Utah County received over 100 million of that, and still the best we can do with the resources and options that money could provide is dump the problem on the police by criminalizing it.
“The issue for me is not the mask, it is the approach. When we first entered into this pandemic a health order was issued that restricted gatherings larger than 10 people. We had citizens calling the police on fellow citizens for holding family gatherings in public places as well as private property. We had incidents of public disorder between citizens due to the order. A mask mandate will generate the same responses.”
Smith concluded: “The real mandate should be to our elected officials to address the specific problem in the specific areas that are effected with a community based approach that promotes buy in and acceptance from the community.”