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GFPD aims to educate, not issue citations, during COVID-19 restrictions

Great Falls Police Department patrol vehicle
Posted at 8:30 AM, Apr 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-04 20:17:56-04

GREAT FALLS — In response to questions in the community about the possibility of being being cited for being outside in Great Falls during COVID-19 restrictions, the Great Falls Police Department shared the following message on Friday:

  • We are not stopping people who are out driving or walking. We may approach a large group and educate them about the Health Officer's order. And, we are forwarding complaints of businesses operating outside of the order to the City County Health Department for investigation. If they require our assistance to enforce the order they will contact us. If you have questions about what we are doing, or not doing, please feel free to ask us. We strongly advise everyone to hunker down at home until the Health Officer lifts the restrictions. There is extreme risk of exposing yourself, your family members, and others if you are out unnecessarily.

People can leave their homes to get groceries, buy food from a restaurant, go to medical appointments, provide care for others, and other activities that are deemed essential. They can also drive around and enjoy the outdoors, but officials stressed that maintaining a "social distance" of at least six feet from other people is critical.

During a news conference on Friday, March 27th by Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki, Great Falls Police Chief David Bowen, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter, and Montana Highway Patrol Captain Sager explained how they are responding to the "stay at home" order from the governor. Scroll down to watch the video (or click here).

They explained what the governor's order meant in terms of law enforcement actions. They said that travel throughout Great Falls and Cascade County is not restricted, and officers will not be stopping people simply to make them justify their travel. Law enforcement officers will continue to conduct proactive patrols, respond to calls for assistance, and make traffic stops when appropriate.

They also noted that the City of Great Falls does have a curfew for minors, and has for years; it states that people under the age of 18 must be inside by midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, and by 11 pm Sunday through Thursday. Officers have recently encountered several minors out in the community late at night, and continue to educate them, and their parents, about the curfew.

Governor Bullock's order directs Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all nonessential businesses and operations as efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, and will be in effect through Friday, April 10. Click here for complete details. Bullock said on Friday that he likely will extend the directive next week, and it will likely continue restrictions through April 24. The directive also prohibits all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or place of residence.

The order does not prohibit restaurants from continuing to offer take-out, curb-side, and delivery service. Click here for a list of Great Falls restaurants offering such service.

Employees who are not sure if they are considered essential should talk with their manager/business owner. Business owners with questions can call at 1-800-755-6672 and leave messages 24-hours a day and will receive a prompt response, according to Bullock.