Mixed reactions to enforcing mask mandate across Texas among city officials & law enforcement

State News

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — With Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate going into effect Friday, July 3, several law enforcement agencies and local city officials are choosing to enforce the mandate in different ways.

“Our goal is to make sure that people will be able to continue to prosper while also protecting their lives. We can achieve both by having people wear face masks,” Gov. Abbott said Thursday.

Midland Mayor Patrick Payton said he will not be asking the Midland Police Department to respond to calls regarding mask violations.

“Though disappointed in the ongoing Executive overreach of Governor Abbott into local matters dealing with community health, one can also respect and appreciate the nearly impossible nature of dealing with unprecedented events in the daily lives of Texans,” Payton began.

“I will not be asking our police department to respond to calls reporting individuals in violation of this executive order,” Payton continued in a statement, “We cannot, and I will not, have our police chasing reports of people in violation of the mask requirement knowing that there will not only be multiple unenforceable scenarios, but also exceptions and circumstances that make this mask mandate unenforceable throughout the city.”

The Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement over the weekend, expressing it would not take action to enforce the mandate.

“The order includes specific language prohibiting law enforcement the use of detention, arrest, or confinement to enforce the order. This language also strips law enforcement of any fundamental tools necessary to enforce compliance with the law,” the statement read.

In Amarillo, while the Amarillo Police Department will not be responding to calls of violations, Cpl. Jeb Hilton said the department will be enforcing the mandate.

“The governor set a $250 fine, for anyone caught not wearing a mask, We are going to start out by doing warnings,” Cpl. Hilton said.

While the Lubbock Police Department has not yet issued any citations, LPD Public Information Officer Allison Matherly said receiving a citation would fall under the category of a Class C Misdemeanor.

Like other police departments, LPD is also hoping for voluntary compliance with the first warning, which comes before a citation.

In order to encourage voluntary compliance, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce is offering free masks to businesses for employees and customers.

“I can’t force anybody to do anything, but I can certainly say the governor is trying to mandate it. And we’re trying to help people mind that mandate and do do what he’s instructed them to do by making as many masks available as possible,” CEO and President Eddie McBride said.

Nexstar has requested comment from the Governor’s office regarding cities and agencies that do not comply with enforcing the order, but has not heard back yet.

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