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Turlock Walmart calls police for customer mask order noncompliance
Turlock Walmart
The Turlock Police Department was dispatched to the Turlock Walmart for a call stemming from a family shopping in the store sans masks (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

The question of how the statewide mandatory face covering order will be enforced in Turlock was answered Sunday when the Turlock Police Department was dispatched to Walmart for a call stemming from a family shopping in the store sans masks.

The call ended without incident, but it did prompt Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar to go on Facebook Live Sunday to deliver a message to the community on how the police department will handle reports of non-compliance for the statewide order from the California Department of Public Health.

“The Turlock Police Department will continue to educate our community in what they should do in regards to compliance during this pandemic,” Amirfar said. “However, we will not be citing people for not wearing face masks.”

The Chief’s message is in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said he believes “moral persuasion” will be the most effective tool for compliance.

“We will look to local government for enforcement, but more importantly we look to the moral persuasion each and every one of us has as individuals and to again be good examples,” Newsom said. “So, when we are out and about and we’re wearing a face covering, we’re not only protecting ourselves and our loved ones and the broader community, but we’re also sending a broader message to people that they should consider doing the same. Our goal is not to be punitive. Our goal is to educate.”

On June 18, the CDPH issued a mandate that all people in California wear face coverings when in a high-risk area, which includes any indoor public space. The mandate only provides for a few exceptions.

The issue came to the forefront Saturday in Turlock when a Walmart store manager contacted the police department because of a confrontation with a man stemming over him and his children not using face coverings while in the store.

Denair resident Bobbie Carne caught part of the interaction on video and shared it on Facebook. In the video, the police are escorting out the man and his two young children. The man did have a face covering, but it was pulled under his chin. His two children did not have face coverings. The man was not issued a citation.

One officer on the video did explain the situation and the police response, which earned some praise from Chief Amirfar.

“My officers did an outstanding job in regards to gaining compliance and asking the individual to leave,” Amirfar said.

A Walmart spokesperson released a statement about the incident, which was shared by FOX 40.

“Maintaining customer and associate safety remains our top priority. We encourage customers to be especially mindful of one another during this unprecedented time and adhere to recommendations and guidance that we all use face coverings in public places.”

While Amirfar said the department will not be citing people not wearing face coverings, officers will continue to enforce trespassing laws. Amirfar said officers were not going to “respond to businesses simply because someone is not wearing a mask.

“However, if that business refuses to serve you and asks you to leave, you should leave,” Amirfar said. “If you refuse to leave that business will request us to respond for trespassing.”

Amirfar said businesses will be asked to verify that they will in fact file trespassing charges before officers are sent.

“The Turlock Police Department is committed to our community and your safety,” Amirfar said. “All we ask is you practice safe COVID-19 requirements, i.e. wash your hands, try and keep the six-foot distance and wear a mask where you can.”