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VACP Statement to Governor Northam Regarding Mask Mandate

Today, the VACP warned Governor Ralph Northam about the unintended consequences of mandating masks inside private businesses and the impact on law enforcement as well as business owners.
Governor Northam:

We understand that you will be issuing a mask order today.  We want to warn you about the unintended negative consequences of mandating masks inside businesses.

This is a Governor's order that private businesses don't just have to comply with, they have to enforce.  Law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to place officers at the entrance to or inside every open business to enforce a mask order.  It will be up to the businesses and their untrained employees to confront someone who isn't wearing a mask to either compel the violators to wear a mask or expel them from the premises.  As we have seen in other states, this has led to confrontations between businesses and their customers, even in one case leading to a shooting death at a Dollar Store.  

By the time our officers are called to the stores, the confrontation already will have occurred.  If the violator is still there, the officer can charge him with trespassing, but if the violator won't leave, then the officer has to forcibly remove him from the store.  Of course, this now creates a close contact situation between the officer and violator, which results in an unnecessary risk of exposure.  If and when that happens, we lose our officers to a 2-week quarantine period.

Wearing a mask, social distancing and limited trips outside the home are the best advice we can give Virginians, and we should continue to recommend these prevention measures.  However, turning good advice into a mandate that has to be enforced with trespassing citations and physical removal of violators destroys police/community relations and puts business owners in a no-win situation: either be prepared to confront people you value as customers, or avoid the risk of a potentially violent confrontation by keeping your business closed.

Virginia's police chiefs strongly encourage you NOT to issue a mask mandate.  Please leave this decision up to the business community and our local governments to make this determination for the citizens we serve.


Dana G. Schrad 
Executive Director
Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation