Pullman Police to enforce state mandates, crack down on parties

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Pullman Police Department has seen an increase in parties, primarily with Washington State University students. This has prompted them to take action, which now includes a fine.

The department said they’ve been taking an education approach to people not following Gov. Inslee’s mandates such as social distancing, the use of masks and gatherings.

“We’re going to transition from just the education and warning only to include an enforcement element,” said Gary Jenkins, Pullman Police Chief. “We want to put a stop to parties that are going on that are exposing people to potential risks.”

Jenkins said since the end of July, they’ve been called to two to three parties a night.

“We’ve seen some parties without masks, without social distancing, exceeding the 10 person limit,” he explained.

Currently, Whitman County Public Health said the county is at high risk of spreading COVID-19 in the community. The county has 133 positive cases.

“We’re going to focus a lot on parties and people that know that there are violations going on and yet, they’re holding the party anyway,” Jenkins said.

If you’re caught throwing a party with people not following state guidelines, you can face a $250.

“If there’s a party where there are proclamation violations, would be considered a nuisance party, and so that’s a civil infraction,” Jenkins said.

The party also can’t have more than 10 people there. If you’re caught again, the fine is $350.

If you don’t leave the party, Pullman officers can cite you with a misdemeanor. It’s a fine up to $100 and/or three months in jail.

Students at WSU said they agree with the enforcement through fines.

“Fining, I could see that it could kinda help keep people in the know,” said Katelynn Towry, a sophomore at WSU. “Once they get the first fine, it’s kinda like a ticket. They don’t want to get another one.”

Another sophomore agreed.

“I think they’re good because a lot of people are immunocomprised on campus and it’s keeping their safety in mind,” said Liam Drane.

But they don’t think going to jail is the right answer.

“I think that just might be a little over the top because I think it’s something that people aren’t used to so far,” Towry said.

“I think that jail time is rarely the answer for most things,” Drane explained. “I think that a slap on the wrist like here, here’s a fine. Like hey, we need to take care of the people that’s around us cause we’re a community.”

Jenkins said the rules can also be enforced on campus.

“Washington State University is authorized to enforce city codes for this type of violation,” he explained, “and so we’re in constant communication with them and we’re all on the same page.”

The community is what the police department said they’re going to protect.

“Even though people that attend these parties might not get sick or know that they’re sick,” Jenkins said, “that then can carry that to someone else that is a more vulnerable member of the population.”

As far as masks and social distancing fines, Jenkins said it’ll also be case-by-case.

“Individual violations of not wearing a mask or doing social distancing — depending on the circumstances those are all misdemeanors,” he said.

Someone violating a proclamation requirement can get up to a $5,000 fine and potentially up to a year in jail. If they’re not following an order issued by a local or state health board, this fine is $100 and possibly three months in jail.

Once a ticket is given, Jenkins said it’s up to the judge as to whether or not they’ll make the person pay for the fine.

“We just want compliance,” Jenkins said. “We don’t want to have to take enforcement action, but to keep the community safe, we will take enforcement action.”

If a student is giving a violation from the Pullman Police Department, it will be reported to the university’s Center for Community Standards. From there, WSU can determine if they will take further action.

READ: WSU moves all fall instruction online due to COVID-19