Park City-area law enforcement prepares for mask-related disputes as mandate ends |

Park City-area law enforcement prepares for mask-related disputes as mandate ends

Sheriff hopes for ‘tolerance on both sides’ of the issue, but cases possible in coming days

Park City placed signs on Main Street with information about mask wearing. A state mask mandate expires on Saturday. There is the possibility of disputes regarding masks that could draw the attention of law enforcement.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Some businesses in the Park City area on Saturday intend to require masks be worn even as a statewide mandate expires.

Others likely will not require them.

And, it seems, there will be masked and unmasked customers in Park City businesses starting this weekend.

It is a scenario that could lead to conflict between business owners and customers and, possibly, between customers themselves. The two primary law enforcement agencies in the Park City area — the Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office — at the end of the week understood they could be called in coming days to respond to conflicts centered on masks as the efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus continue.

Although the mandate will be lifted on Saturday, businesses can enact their own mask requirements since they operate on private property. Essentially, the government mandate is ending, but a business need not follow the lead. If someone violates a mask requirement at a business, law enforcement could be called to intervene.

“It’s their right. Just as the old saying goes, ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service,’” Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said.

He said he hopes a tolerance campaign involving people of varying opinions about the issue is launched soon regarding mask wearing. He said the community needs “tolerance on both sides.” Deputies will wear masks on private property if they are asked or if they choose to on their own, Martinez said.

If the Sheriff’s Office receives a complaint about a dispute involving someone declining to wear a mask on private property when asked, a deputy would inquire whether the owner or a representative of a store wants the person to be ordered off the property. That scenario would involve a trespassing case, he said. The Sheriff’s Office at that point could remove someone from the property or arrest the person if they continue to refuse to leave.

“There’s no right they have to visit that establishment,” Martinez said about someone refusing to wear a mask if one is required by the business.

The Sheriff’s Office has not received a recent complaint about a dispute regarding masks at a business. The Police Department has responded to several reports involving claims of mask-less people. In one of the cases, in June, the police were called to a health club to investigate a dispute between two men centered on one of them not wearing a mask. In that case, the man without a mask made threats of physical force, the police said at the time. Two of the other cases occurred the next month, including one on the Rail Trail.

A Park City Chamber/Bureau survey taken toward the end of the ski season, involving nearly 400 businesses from a variety of sectors, found nearly three-quarters of the businesses planned to require masks regardless of the state mandate ending. Some in the public and private sectors saw the mask mandate as having contributed to the Park City’s area’s solid economic numbers since the fall.

Police Chief Wade Carpenter predicted there could be cases as the mask mandate is lifted. He said there are “strong opinions on both sides of it.”

The chief described steps similar to those of the Sheriff’s Office if the police are called.

“We’ll certainly invite the individual to leave,” Carpenter said.

If someone refuses to depart, the police could pursue a trespassing case, he said. The person would likely receive a citation if they refuse or be arrested if the police must physically remove someone, Carpenter said. Each person involved in mask cases has complied when requested, he said.

“There’s bound to be a few … that would be a guess on my part,” he said about disputes as the mandate is lifted.

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