HEBER SPRINGS — In a July 17 announcement undersigned by Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown, the Cleburne County Sheriff’s office has clarified the enforcement of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s executive order for mask wear during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s order was issued July 16.

In the announcement the office stated calls to 911 were not to be made for mask enforcement requests. The office also stated it would not detain mask violators. The sheriff’s office will support local businesses, including “to remove patrons who don’t follow their store rules.”

The announcement:

In response to numerous phone calls from citizens regarding Governor Hutchinson’s executive order mandating face coverings in public, I am issuing the following statement from the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office:

All Law Enforcement agencies in America today struggle with the challenge of insufficient manpower in the face of dramatic increases in violent and non-violent crimes. We must prioritize handling of calls based on urgency and public safety.

I sincerely wish the biggest issue we had to worry about was answering mask violator calls.

For the purpose of clarification:

911 is for emergencies only.

Reporting mask violations DOES NOT fall into this category and we ask that you not use 911 to report any violations of the Governor’s executive order.

Mask violators will NOT be detained by our agency.

Governor Hutchinson’s executive order states in section 3C, “No law enforcement officer or local official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for violation of this order.”

To be detained means that you have been stopped by the police (for a “brief and cursory” period of time), and are temporarily not free to leave. Therefore, if enforcement action is necessary, and if we have the available manpower to respond, it will be the practice of our agency to issue verbal warnings from a safe distance, so as not to detain any individual.

Private businesses have always had the ability to make, or not make, rules in their privately owned businesses, and to ask for the assistance of law enforcement to remove patrons who don’t follow their store rules. This has not changed, and neither has our willingness to assist them if they call for help with an emergency issue.

I have full trust that the residents and business owners of our great county will continue to use common sense and good judgment to be safe.

The men and women of the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office, and I, will continue to base agency decisions on what is in the best interest of our community as a whole.

Respectfully,

Sheriff Chris Brown

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