GILLESPIE COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide face mask order and will not require deputies to wear a mask while on duty, according to the GCSO’s Facebook page.
Abbott’s order to require the use of face masks in most public places went into effect Friday at 12 p.m. for residents of counties with more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19. At last report, Gillespie County had 26 active cases and 41 total cases of coronavirus.
GCSO says it will not enforce the order because it “strips law enforcement of any fundamental tools necessary to enforce compliance.”
GCSO also states that the order contains specific language, stopping law enforcement from detention, arrest or confinement for violators. GCSO claims it would be liable for even speaking to a person about the order because it could be construed as detention.
Abbott’s order does contain language allowing fines for repeat violators.
“Local law enforcement has the authority to enforce this safety standard,” Abbott said in the video announcing the order. “Just like they do when enforcing seat belt standards.”
Additionally, GCSO will not force its deputies to wear masks, but will not prohibit the deputies from wearing a covering either. In the post, GCSO cites officer safety and the ability to clearly communicate with citizens as its reasoning.
The post reads: “The wearing of objects near the face and neck provide an offender possible tools to impose harm to an officer.” The post continues: “In light of recent allegations in the nation of misconduct on the part of law enforcement, the Sheriff will not restrict the deputy’s ability to clearly communicate intentions when in contact with citizens.”
GCSO states it “does not make this statement as any disrespect to Governor Abbott and we encourage all citizens to take reasonable precautions in their own life to mitigate possible exposure to the coronavirus.”