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Billings police will not write citations for lack of mask compliance

(KPAX) BILLINGS – Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said Thursday he expects that people will follow the governor’s directive to wear masks indoors.

Law enforcement will not be writing citations for people who don’t wear masks.

“Law enforcement in Yellowstone County is not changing its posture from Phase 1 enforcement,” St. John said. “Our primary response is going to be education. We want and certainly hope that the citizens of Billings and Yellowstone County will voluntarily comply and not put us into position where we need to take enforcement action.”

St. John said businesses may ask customers to wear a mask and not complying may lead to a different enforcement.

“That takes it out of the mandated mask situation and puts it into a trespass,” he said. “So we will deal with that. We will ask people to either mask up or give them the opportunity to leave, one or the other. But the potential for arrest for trespassing in those situations is there.”

St. John said there have not been any such situations.

Some agree with the chief on enforcement.

“Patrons or clients of businesses have to realize too that they may not be able to receive services if they’re not wearing a mask,” said Brad Barker. “And I think that’s completely fair.”

“They should be given a warning at first,” said Wayne Ramsey. “But if second or third time, the cop has to come up and tell you, ‘Hey put a mask on or here’s your fine.’ Everybody’s got to follow the law.”

And they differ on their view of the directive to wear masks.

“We probably should’ve been wearing them a lot longer,” Barker said. “I don’t want to see anything shut down. I’d like to be able for businesses to stay open and people to have jobs.”

“It should be an individual choice because our liberties are being taken away,” Ramsey said.

“Education first, followed up by enforcement, if needed,” St. John said.

Officers may document cases, but St. John said they but will not be writing citations or summons.

He said officers will spend their time on criminal activity.