A judge in Harris County, Texas issued a strict COVID-19 order on Wednesday demanding that citizens wear masks in public or risk fines or jail time, but the local police department is not having any of it.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that adults and children age 10 and over must have their mouths covered when leaving the home in an order set to take effect Monday through May 27, according to the Houston Chronicle. She added that residents don’t need to buy N95 masks, and can instead cover their faces with homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or handkerchiefs.
Those who violate Hidalgo’s order can be hit with fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail. However, the unions representing Houston police officers and Harris County deputies immediately fired back at the judge by saying they have no intention of enforcing this order.
“The citizens of Harris County are working hard together through this pandemic and do not need the added stress and fear of being fined or arrested for failing to wear a mask/face covering they may not have,” said David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization.
Houston Police Officers Union President Joe Gamaldi added that the order was “draconian,” saying that his union had already contacted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office “seeking an opinion on the legality of imposing a criminal penalty/fine for anyone not wearing a mask in public.”
Gamaldi also pointed out that officers have been reminded that officers have “discretion” in these matters and don’t need to enforce orders such as this one.
“Everyone should be wearing a mask in public, I wear 1 everyday. But making not wearing 1 punishable by law, and asking our officers to enforce it, will do irreparable damage to our relationship with the community,” Gamaldi tweeted alongside a letter to members of his union. “We are already stretched too thin without having to enforce this.”
Everyone should be wearing a mask in public, I wear 1 everyday. But making not wearing 1 punishable by law, and asking our officers to enforce it, will do irreparable damage to our relationship with the community. We are already stretched too thin without having to enforce this. pic.twitter.com/BwxEJgHvkq
— Joe Gamaldi (@JoeGamaldi) April 22, 2020
These types of orders that are being issued by officials all over the country have gone way too far, so we applaud these Texas police officers for fighting back. While we need to be worrying about the coronavirus pandemic, we also need to make sure that officials don’t use this virus as an excuse to strip us of the civil liberties our forefathers fought and died for us to have.
As American citizens, we live in the most free society in the world, and we will never surrender our rights without a fight!