Bonner County Sheriff says office will not enforce mask mandate

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler today posted notice on Facebook that his office has no intention of enforcing the five-county mask mandate issued Thursday, saying the legislature had not been called into session to approve it.

“The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the mask mandate passed by the Panhandle Regional Health District,” he wrote. “When Bonner County Dispatch receives a complaint of a suspected violation of the mask mandate from a citizen, the complainant will be advised that the Sheriff’s Office will not be investigating or enforcing the mask mandate.

“Dispatch will close out the call and make a record of it. If the caller insists on speaking to a deputy, the deputy will call him/her back and state the same thing.

“The three police departments in the county – Ponderay PD, Priest River PD and Sandpoint PD (who also provides services in the City of Kootenai) – will have to make their own decisions regarding if and how they will enforce the mask mandate. Bonner County Dispatch will forward the call to the Police Departments, and they are on their own to take it from there.

“Governor Little, instead of calling up the Idaho Legislature, empowered the unelected Panhandle Health District with a legislative function. Please read what the Panhandle Health District wrote, and decide for yourself how it could possibly be enforced.

“The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office is working at maximum capacity on real crime, and it cannot enforce the unenforceable mask rules. Most law enforcement agencies around the country are either passively or actively refusing to follow these types of directives. Any arrests/citations that have been made/issued in the past were related to high-profile targets (such as the Psalm Sing in Moscow, Idaho), and I believe they have nothing to do with public health.

“Happy Thanksgiving!”

The 60 day emergency order, issued citing Idaho Code sections 56-1003(7), 39-415 and67-5247, and IDAPA, requires that every person in each of the five North Idaho counties over age two wear a face covering that completely covers their nose and mouth whenever in a public place and social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained.

The order does provide for several exemptions, including health issues, those with jobs in which wearing a mask could pose a risk, those seated in dining and drinking establishments and others.

To read the order, click here.