‘Our team is there to provide great service, not be bouncers’

Macomb County Sheriff’s Office won’t issue citations to non-mask wearers

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2020


MACOMB COUNTY — On July 10, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring mask use in all indoor public spaces and when in crowded outdoor spaces.

The order, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. July 13, came after an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the state.

Data from Michigan.gov indicate the number of daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan increased by 891 from July 14 to July 15. In Macomb County, 7,783 cases are reported as of July 15.

The state order notes that any business that is open to the public may refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering, with limited exceptions.

A question now is how will the order be enforced, and who is responsible for enforcement?

On July 13, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office took to Facebook, posting that it won’t issue citations to those not wearing a mask.

“Those who wish to make a complaint will be referred to the attorney general’s office,” the post reads. “If a business wishes to enforce this order, they may require patrons to wear a mask. If the patron refuses, the business may ask them to leave their establishment. If the patron refuses, the business may contact us, and we will treat it as a trespassing complaint.”

The office states that, if people would like to file a complaint against a person not wearing a face mask when required or if a business is failing to enforce the order, they may contact (888) 535-6136, the number for Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline, or email AG-COVID19@michigan.gov.

“The Sheriff’s Office will respond to an establishment that contacts us regarding a person being non-compliant with wearing a face mask, or who does not leave a business,” according to the post. “We will take direction from the business owner or establishment representative on course of action. We encourage all to wear a face mask.”

Ryan Jarvi, press secretary for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, said in part that the attorney general’s office does not supervise city police chiefs or county sheriffs, and that local police agencies and county prosecutors are still the most appropriate authorities to deal with violations of the executive orders.

Cortney Casey, owner of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, said her business will enforce the order.

“We’ve been asking guests to wear masks since we reopened in June, right after the stay at home order was lifted,” she said.

Michigan By The Bottle has locations in Shelby Township, Royal Oak and Auburn Hills.

Casey said her team members know that, if someone enters without a mask, they will politely ask them to put a mask on until they get to their table.

“I’d say 98.5% of our customers have been amazing about it,” she said. “We occasionally have someone who gives our staff a hard time. Our team is there to provide great service, not be bouncers. I feel terrible that my team has to get embroiled in people’s politics.”

Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet — who represents District 13, which includes most of Macomb Township — said the governor’s edict is not a law.

“It’s a proclamation, and I agree with the sheriff that the priority for law enforcement should be enforcing laws to protect people’s lives and their properties,” he said.

According to the state, studies have shown that wearing a mask can save lives and significantly lower an individual’s chance of spreading COVID-19.

Under the governor’s order, businesses must post signs at all entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside.

Casey said regardless of anyone’s feeling about the mandate, it’s what businesses have been told to do in order to stay open.

“All I want to do is keep my business open,” she said.

Drolet believes that people are capable of being responsible without being threatened.

“Part of doing business is enacting policies that you think are in the best interest of your customers and the business,” he said.  

Those who are exempt from wearing a mask in Michigan businesses include people younger than five years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment.

Judi Hoskins, of St. Clair Shores, stated on Facebook that each city should be responsible for enforcing the law within their city by their own law enforcement agency.

“They should be required to enforce it, not some cities doing it and some not, which is what is now happening,” she wrote.

In April, a Roseville woman was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors after she allegedly physically assaulted a grocery store employee in St. Clair Shores after being asked to leave because she was not wearing a mask.

Under the July 10 order, a willful violation is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty, but no term of confinement may be imposed on individuals who violate the mask requirement.