POCAHONTAS, Ark. – Randolph County Sheriff Kevin Bell believes you should wear a mask – but he doesn’t believe the government should tell you to.
Late Thursday, the sheriff announced on his Facebook profile that neither he nor his deputies would be arresting people for not wearing a mask. The sheriff also wrote in comments his office would not write tickets for violators of the order.
He told NEA Report late Thursday his deputies would only be asking people to wear a mask for their safety.
“We have plenty of other things to do,” wrote Sheriff Bell. “I do think the COVID-19 is real and we are trying to be as careful as possible to keep my staff and the jail population healthy. ”
But the sheriff said he thinks you should wear a mask when around others in public. He will wear one himself, he said, and will respect businesses or people requiring them.
“Common sense has to kick in at some point,” Bell wrote.
The sheriff said he stands with other sheriffs with the same views that the government has no place telling an individual what to wear, “or for that matter when and how a person can worship God.”
“We live in a democracy and we have a written constitution to follow and I will uphold my oath of office and not infringe on a persons constitutional rights,” wrote the sheriff.
Under the Arkansas governor’s executive order announced on Thursday, masks will be mandated law if in a public, populated space (with some exemptions) beginning Monday. The punishment is not incarceration; merely a $100 fine or up to a $500 fine depending on severity of the incident. The governor said a first-time offense will lead to a warning being issued.
Updated 8:30 PM: Notably, the order does not specify authority to make an arrest or incarcerate a violator. The officer doesn’t even have the authority to detain an individual for violation of the order, according to the governor’s slideshow. The order prescribes only a warning then a citation.
NEA Report inquired if the Randolph sheriff’s department will still issue warnings or ask non-compliant individuals to wear a mask. The sheriff said his office, “will ask people to for their safety.”
At least one other Randolph County business, American Made General Store, has announced that masks will not be required in their store.
A statement posted at 5:40 PM Thursday by owner Chad Overman said they would not enforce mask wearing in their businesses. He asked people to respect others’ personal spaces but if someone feels unsafe while shopping to order online or call in.