SIDNEY — Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart has a firm handle on his office’s role in the enforcement of people wearing face masks in public.
“Our position is we are not going to be mask police,” said Lenhart during his weekly interview. “I’m counting on Shelby County citizens to make the decision of what’s best for their family.” Lenhart encourages citizens to follow the rules as outlined by the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine.
“Wear a mask,” said Lenhart. “Keep things clean. Observe the 6 foot social distancing guideline and the number of people in a group.
“Safety is our responsibility,” he said. “If someone calls (about a large party), we’ll respond and observe the situation. Then we’re going to report back to the health department.”
Lenhart said it’s the responsibility of the bar owners and restaurant owners to police themselves. If they don’t follow the guidelines, he said, the person could lose their liquor license with the state or their food license with the local health department.
“No criminal citations will be given out by the sheriff’s office,” said Lenhart. “I’ve been asked by people about their graduation parties. The rules say 10 people or less. But that’s their call to make. We’re not going to interfere.
“If there are too many people at the event, we’re going to let the health department handle it,” he said.
Lenhart said DeWine has asked the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs to assign a member of their staff to a statewide task force.
“This sheriff won’t be assigning anyone to the task force,” said Lenhart.
A bill was introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives, he said, which would allow DeWine to assign members of law enforcement to the task force.
“Luckily Speaker of the House Larry Householder took that out of the bill,” said Lenhart.
Lenhart has one wish for the Ohio government.
“I wish the state government would have put an emphasis on the opioid crisis,” said Lenhart. “We’ve had two COVID-19 deaths in the county. We were having numerous deaths a month during the crisis.
“It seems like there’s more emphasis on the COVID deaths than on other deaths in the state,” he said.
The current crisis, he said, has people out of work and people who want to work.
“It seems like now it’s all about the money,” Lenhart said.
“Most people can see two sides of the story,” he said. “Some people don’t want to wear the masks. Some people don’t follow the 6 foot distancing. You should follow the doctor’s recommendations.
“If you’re 75 or older, you probably shouldn’t be out if you have extended health issues. If you’re a senior citizen with health issues, have someone else do the shopping for you.”
He said employees in “big box stores” and other locations are required to wear face masks because “it’s being driven by lawyers. That’s why employees wear masks.”
Lenhart said everyone should be respectful of the choices made by their fellow citizens.
“You have to make a good health decision for yourself,” said Lenhart. “Please be kind to one another.”
Lenhart compared the COVID-19 pandemic to the snow emergencies in Shelby County.
“We are smart enough to govern ourselves,” said Lenhart, who said during unsafe driving conditions the local residents know to stay off the roads.
“I learned at the police academy you can only police people that want to be policed,” said Lenhart. “Some people are adamant against the restrictions while others are scared to death of the virus.”
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.