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Police chief: Face coverings are becoming big area of misunderstanding and resistance

Posted 21 July 2020 at 3:27 pm

‘We ask that if you feel strongly about an issue on either side that at the minimum you respect others and avoid conflict by not testing these issues by intentionally going against an order or guideline.’ – Roland Nenni, Albion and Holley Police Chief

Press Release, Albion and Holley Police Chief Roland Nenni

ALBION – Recently there have been many questions asked and posts placed on social media in regards to the wearing of masks/face coverings and other executive orders from the governor issued during the Covid-19 pandemic and how law enforcement is handling them.

Roland Nenni

As you are aware the New York State Governor has issued in excess of 50 executive orders in response to the Covid19 pandemic. Many of these orders are issued with little to no guidance on how they are to be enforced and to whom they are to be enforced by.

While many of the orders are issued with the intent to help save lives and protect citizens, they are contradictory to previous orders and confusing at best. We in law enforcement believe strongly in the protection of rights to all citizens regardless of race, color or ethnicity. We work hard to protect constitutional rights and in the same fashion protect citizen’s lives and property.

Many in our community see the Executive Orders issued during the Covid-19 pandemic as unconstitutional and illegal. We in law enforcement also see many of these orders as lacking the due process necessary to begin any type of enforcement action when we receive complaints of executive orders being violated. This places us in a very difficult position that we must navigate through each time we receive a complaint that a Covid-19 order is being violated.

As I have said, we believe strongly in due process. That process is done when the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government work together to create laws and test the constitutionality of these laws and orders. This test is done using due process over time. Constitutionality of an order issued is not determined in a parking lot during a dispute between citizens days after the order was placed into effect.


‘We as a community need to respect the fact that everyone’s actions have a bearing on the spread of the virus. Covid-19 can range from no symptoms in some people and can result in death in others.’


Every day we receive 911 calls and anonyms NY Pause Complaints from citizens that are reporting other citizens that are not wearing face masks or social distancing. We respond to these complaints with the intent to mitigate, educate and resolve any dispute that is occurring or about to occur. Locally we have seen citizens getting into physical altercations over the wearing or not wearing face coverings. Nationally these disputes have turned deadly and we hope to prevent violence at each of these calls for service.

There has been information released at the state level that if employees of a business or patrons of a business are not wearing a mask, a fine in excess of $1,000 can be levied against the violator. Many take this as a threat from government. This potential action is not coming from the police or our local government. This is being done at the state level and they are pushing the responsibility of this enforcement onto local law enforcement and health officials in the form of Health Law Violations.

I cannot speak for law enforcement agencies that are not under my control, but I can for the Albion and Holley Police Departments which operate under the same Orders. There have recently been posts on social media that have detailed police responses to face covering incidents that are inaccurate. I would like to clear up some misconceptions regarding police response. We do not keep a “list” or “registry” of mask or social distancing violators.

We do collect information from everyone an officer speaks to on every call for service we respond to, regardless of the type of incident. This is done so the officer can complete a detailed report of the response. The purpose of the report is so that police supervisors and myself can review each call for service to make sure everything is complete.

We also record this information so that the Police Command Staff can respond to complaints or inquires days and sometimes years after the call for service. I have reviewed the body camera footage from a recent police call for service regarding a “Face Covering Violation.” The officer conducted himself professionally and respectfully and simply pointed out the Executive Order and that fines can be levied for the violation.


‘We hope that all patrons will wear masks while inside a business to reduce the conflict that will undoubtedly occur because of the lack of a mask. By wearing a mask, you reduce the chance of the business owner from facing potential fines that could cause the business to close.’


The “face covering” issue is one of the biggest areas of resistance and misunderstanding. The executive orders state that a “face covering” must be worn when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained. The Executive Order further states that a business must make all employees wear face coverings at all times and that patrons of the business must wear a mask when they cannot maintain the 6-foot social distance. If a business patron is found to be inside a business without a face covering and is within 6 feet of someone else, no matter what the circumstance, the business is susceptible to thousands of dollars in fines.

We all must realize that social distancing of 6 feet is difficult inside a building that is inhabited by others. We hope that all patrons will wear masks while inside a business to reduce the conflict that will undoubtedly occur because of the lack of a mask. By wearing a mask, you reduce the chance of the business owner from facing potential fines that could cause the business to close.

Please understand that law enforcement did not choose to be placed in these situations and the last thing we want is to be involved in a political and constitutional debate, which we have no control over. There are opinions on both sides of these issues that we in law enforcement cannot resolve. We ask that if you feel strongly about an issue on either side that at the minimum you respect others and avoid conflict by not testing these issues by intentionally going against an order or guideline.

Regardless of political views or the acceptance of scientific data, Covid-19 can and does affect everyone differently. We as a community need to respect the fact that everyone’s actions have a bearing on the spread of the virus. Covid-19 can range from no symptoms in some people and can result in death in others.

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