PD to address future of face covering enforcement as San Jose pushes for tougher rules

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose's Police Chief Eddie Garcia is expected to address the future of enforcement over any face cover requirements made by city leaders.

A press conference is scheduled for Thursday morning.

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In hard-hit Santa Clara County, new guidelines by Public Health Department officials take shape Friday.

It'll soon be mandatory for people entering indoor or outdoor businesses to be masked. Also, those taking public transit.

However, the City of San Jose wants to see stricter rules. Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilman Sergio Jimenez introduced the order.

"The reason why we took it one step further is we felt there was a gap in that mandate. In where people interact and are in close proximity to each other even before they go into the building," Vice Mayor Jones told ABC7 News. "Or if they're in an area that's outdoors, but is crowded. Or there are individuals within six feet of you, and you can't avoid or have that social distancing."

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Well into Tuesday night's 11-hour-long city council meeting, the big debate surrounded enforcement.

Council voted to decide whether to enforce face covering requirements at a June 2 meeting.

ABC7 reached out to Chief Garcia about the issues, on Wednesday. He was unavailable for interview.

At the council meeting, he told city leaders, "We can say that they're not going to be enforced, that we're going to treat it with kid gloves, but we're going to get inundated with calls from the community."

"It's happened, Garcia added, "So, I'm not guessing that, it's going to happen."

Jones said the intention was not to have the police issuing citations or making arrests, but the hope is they'd help inform and educate.

"There's nothing wrong with a simple reminder, or a gentle nudge and say, 'Hey, face masks are mandatory and you should be wearing one.'"

"Our expectation is that they would not," Jones said about SJPD enforcement. "So, that did not surprise me. Nor do we want them to take a heavy hand."

The city's ordinance considers requiring face coverings whenever people leave the house.

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When interacting with people or co-workers, either indoors or outdoors. When working in a shared space, and when enjoying the same outdoor areas as others.

The city would acknowledge the same exemptions for children under 6-years-old, those with difficulty breathing while wearing a mask, and those who have difficulty putting on a mask or pulling off a mask on their own.

"The expectation would be that when people are out in public, if they're not wearing a face mask, that there would be some social pressure to wear a mask. Either comments by other individuals," Jones said. "But we don't want it to be a situation where there's conflict. Or that people take matters into their own hands and be overly aggressive, in terms of the social reinforcing."

Resident Alma Navarro told ABC7 News, "I know that for some people it's very uncomfortable. We're not used to wearing masks every single day, when we're outside our houses, but it's something I believe we have to do."

"The cops have a lot of things to do, and I think wasting their time trying to police my face mask is an impossible measure that is not something they can live up to," resident Michael Adams added.

Both agree, whether the city's push becomes a requirement or not, they see this as a responsibility.

"It's also a responsibility for the city council to try to pass these rules and regulations. They're just doing the best they can, and the police chief's doing the best he can. So, it's kind of a thumbs up on everybody, and they just kind of need to accept these new times. It's kind of how we're going to have to roll with it."

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"The only thing worse than having regulations are having regulations you can't enforce," Chief Garcia told council, Tuesday.

He continued, "I do fear that enforcement would impact our most vulnerable- the homeless, the less affluent communities and others that English is not their first language that may not understand the regulations."

Adams added, "It's a fair conversation. We're used to a certain way. Change brings about argument, but we need to have the argument."

Jones said by and large, the push is really dependent on social pressure.

"Unless it's something really egregious, where, by them not wearing a mask or face covering, they're putting vulnerable people into a dangerous situation. Let's say, an elderly person who might have other medical conditions that's known," Jones explained. "That might be a situation where we might want to have the police intervene."

Jones said the City Attorney will come back with a revised ordinance that will incorporate a couple features. First, he'll update the ordinance to reflect new county guidelines. Secondly, revisions will also include language about, if the county changes or revises its ordinance moving forward, that San Jose's ordinance would be able to adjust or adapt to the change.

The city will vote on a revised ordinance on June 2.

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