Leavenworth police officers now have the authority to ticket people for not wearing masks in public spaces. But the police chief thinks people, by and large, will voluntarily comply with the city’s new mask ordinance.
Chief Pat Kitchens said officers will try to educate people in the city about the order over the next few days.
The ordinance, which was approved by Leavenworth city commissioners Thursday, went into effect Saturday.
The ordinance requires people to wear masks or other face coverings over their noses and mouths while in indoor public spaces. People also are required to wear masks while at outdoor public spaces when they can not maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
The ordinance also places restrictions on business owners to ensure customers and employees wear masks. Employees are required to wear masks while in areas that are visited by members of the public. Employees also are required to wear masks in areas where food is prepared for sale or distribution.
The order also requires employees to wear masks while walking through common areas such as hallways and stairways. Employees also are required to wear masks while working in a room with others who cannot maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
The ordinance only is in effect in the city of Leavenworth. The rest of Leavenworth County currently is not under a mask mandate.
Kitchens said the Leavenworth Police Department will enforce the city’s mask ordinance regardless of where violations may occur in the city. This would include churches.
"We’re not going to pick and choose," he said. "If there is a violation, there is a violation."
Kitchens anticipates the Police Department’s enforcement will be driven by reports from members of the public.
He said the police will give calls involving crimes such as domestic violence priority over calls concerning masks.
Kitchens said the Leavenworth Police Department already had received calls by Friday morning from people who had questions about the mask ordinance.
The first conviction for violation of the mask ordinance can result in a $5 fine. A second conviction can result in a $10 fine. Each subsequent conviction can result in a $20 fine.
The ordinance includes a number of exemptions.
Children who are 5 years old or younger are exempt from the mask requirement. The ordinance also exempts people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
There also is an exemption for people who have a medical condition, mental health problem or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
Kitchens said police officers will accept people’s claims of medical and mental health exemptions on face value.
The city also created an exemption for first responders. Kitchens said he requested this exemption. The chief said he does not want masks to impact the ability of officers to communicate with people during emergency situations.
Kitchens said officers are being encouraged to wear masks during nonemergency situations.
The city’s mask ordinance is scheduled to remain in effect through Jan. 31.