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More city employees can issue tickets to people refusing to wear masks in public

(Katelyn Dang / Daily Bruin)

By Arya Goyal

Feb. 4, 2021 2:41 p.m.

Some city departments and council members said they do not agree with a new motion that gives city employees the ability to fine individuals who refuse to wear masks in public.

The motion, issued by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz on Jan. 13, was made effective and allows more city employees to issue tickets to people not wearing masks in public. The motion is in trial stages, and city officials are set to review the motion’s efficacy mid-February.

Koretz’s motion builds on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s safer-at-home order, which made facial coverings compulsory for all residents except children under the age of 2 and certain individuals with disabilities. Violators under Garcetti’s order may be fined up to $1,000 or face six months in jail. If cited by a city employee under Koretz’s new motion, people may be fined up to $5,000 for multiple offenses, said Alison Simard, a spokesperson for Koretz.

Unlike Garcetti’s ordinance, Koretz’s motion gives city employees – including the LAPD and Los Angeles Animal Services – the authority to issue tickets through the Administrative Citation Enforcement Program while on duty, although they are not obligated to do so.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, said in an emailed statement that the Administrative Citation Enforcement Program is a noncriminal enforcement method of issuing fines, as opposed to arrest, incarceration and criminal records.

Simard said the motion will allow more departments to write citations without LAPD intervention. She added that LAPD would rather concern themselves with public safety.

“If an employee of the Department of Recreation and Parks encounters a drum circle (and) they could see that people aren’t wearing masks, they could issue a citation,” Simard said.

Ronak Shah, a third-year mathematics student, said the motion is a good idea but shouldn’t be implemented in a way which makes it unnecessarily restrictive.

“I’ve seen some people around Westwood, in big groups even, not wearing masks. So I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “You know, in the end, we’re trying to reduce the cases here.”

Increased policing is not the solution to mask negligence, and LA residents should be trusted to self-regulate their actions, said Grace Yao, a spokesperson for LA City Councilmember John Lee, in an emailed statement.

She added that using city staff to cite noncompliant residents would be hard, and might also result in an inefficient use of the city’s limited staff and resources, especially during the ongoing fiscal crisis.

Rosario Cervantes, an LAPD spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that LAPD’s goal is to gain voluntary compliance with the order and to use education as a primary way of doing so.

Brenda Barnette, general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services, said in an emailed statement that although LA Animal Services has experience giving out administrative citations, it does not expect to be involved in this process for the time being. Their shelters are open only via appointment, for which visitors are told beforehand to have masks on, she added.

“The idea is for people to wear masks and protect each other’s health, not for City staff to give out lots of citations,” she said.

In mid-February, the LA City Council will review the motion’s efficacy based on a report containing the number of citations issued and any issues with compliance.

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