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Police Chief, Mayor Provide Further Clarity On Mask Ordinance Enforcement

Chris Polansky
Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin speaking at a July 23rd press conference at a Tulsa Fire Department training facility.

The Tulsa Police Department will be responding to complaints about Tulsa's new mandatory mask ordinance only if called by a property owner, Mayor G.T. Bynum and TPD Chief Wendell Franklin explained at a Thursday press conference. 

"Officers are not driving around town looking for somebody who doesn't have a mask on," Bynum said. "Instead, it empowers property owners to tell people that that's the ordinance and they need to have a mask on, and if not then they need to leave. If the person won't leave, then TPD can enforce the trespass ordinance that we have in place."

"It's just like a business that posts a sign that says 'no shoes, no shirt, no service,'" Franklin said. "If a person comes in with no shirt and they tell them to leave and they won't leave, they're going to call the police, and we will come out and we will issue a citation or make an arrest for that trespass violation."

Bynum said that since business owners could, in theory, brazenly defy the ordinance simply by not asking maskless patrons to leave, the Tulsa Health Department would take lead on enforcement via a more traditional route.

"If we find that there's a business that is just continually popping up and is clearly a public health nuisance during this pandemic, just as it would be if it were serving unsanitary food, that business is subject to being declared a public health nuisance and being shut down," Bynum said.

Franklin said that TPD is not tracking the number of calls coming in specifically about the mask ordinance.

"They are not given a specific code, because we don't have that in the code index file," Franklin said. 

"You are not going to be able to find data on a person or an officer that issues a citation as a result of a mask, because we will not write it under the mask ordinance -- it would go under the trespass order," Franklin said.

In response to a reporter's question about officers wearing masks, Franklin reiterated what he's said in the past: requiring a mask on officers at all times could put them in danger.

"Officers, when convenient, should be wearing face coverings," Franklin said. "But as a necessary part of our job, it's very difficult for us to communicate, and we have to be able to communicate with people effectively. Sometimes lives depend on that. So restricting an officer by telling them that they must wear a face covering is not good for them and can cause additional issues, and I certainly don't want to put them in that position."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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