I-TEAM: Some Cleveland leaders say police resources should not be used to enforce mask mandate

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) — Several Cleveland council members are concerned that police officers will end up enforcing the city’s new mask rules.  

City council on Wednesday passed legislation that will allow police or health officials to cite individuals who refuse to wear masks in public. Businesses that don’t follow social distancing rules can also face civil penalties. 

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the rules were put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19

Individuals will first receive a warning but then could face fines of $25. Businesses not complying with the rules will also first be warned, but then could face a $1,000 fine for the first offense and a $3,000 fine for additional offenses. 

“You guys don’t execute,” Councilman Kevin Conwell told health officials during a Wednesday council meeting.  

He told the FOX 8 I-TEAM Thursday that he has spoken to several police officers and they are already extremely busy. 

“These officers are stressed,” Conwell said. “We have an increase in shootings and violent crime. They don’t need to be enforcing masks.”

Councilmen Mike Polensek and Brian Kazy agree. They both say the health department needs to be enforcing the rules.  

“There are already calls to police not being answered ,” Polensek said. “ I don’t want the police department being put in the situation they become the mask police.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Brian Mooney asked the city’s Director of Public Health, Merle Gordon, if her employees will be working at night to enforce the rules at local bars and restaurants. She said they had not “adjusted” anyone’s hours yet. 

And when asked how many employees work at the department she told Mooney she did not have that information readily available. 

“We know the health department is not fully staffed,” Kazy said. “We are hoping the health department can use their authority to shut down bars or restaurants looking to operate illegally under the governor’s order.”

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