Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree said Thursday that the sheriff’s office will not enforce the new mask mandate issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Governor issued the executive order Thursday afternoon mandating people cover their nose and mouth in public in counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases. Many studies have shown that wearing masks can help reduce the spread of the virus.
Murphree said that the sheriff’s office is too busy working other cases, and he also believes the Governor overstepped with the order.
“I don’t have the time or manpower to worry about whether people are wearing masks or not,” Murphree said. “I believe the Constitution trumps everything, and I believe in personal responsibility.”
Murphree said that personally, he will comply with the order, but he has instructed deputies specifically to not enforce the mask order. He worries that the order “invites chaos.”
“Business can require a mask, and people who don’t want to wear a mask don’t have to go to those businesses,” Murphree said. “I think people will rebel and purposefully try to go into establishments without masks. When people are told to do something that violates their civil rights, it invites chaos and protest.”
Murphree said there’s nothing the Governor can say to him to change his mind.
As far as area town police departments are concerned, education is the first step when it comes to enforcing the mandate.
A Flower Mound Police Department spokesman said Thursday evening that “FMPD will approach the Governor’s mask order first by educating violators. We will work to gain compliance through education of the new executive order. We would only issue a citation after exhausting all reasonable efforts where one willfully fails to comply.”
Argyle Police Chief Emmitt Jackson said his officers won’t be “actively seeking opportunities to enforce it, but will respond as incidents are brought to our attention.”
The Bartonville Police Department issued the following statement: “The Bartonville Police Dept. will not actively seek and contact people who aren’t wearing a mask. We can and may inform those who aren’t wearing a mask about the governors order. At this point, Bartonville Police are not issuing citations for people not wearing a mask.”
Highland Village Police Chief Doug Reim said that Highland Village officers won’t be driving around just looking for people violating this order, but they will be responding to all complaints and handle those situations. He said the department was already not very heavy-handed when it came to tickets, anyway.
Reim also said that starting at noon Friday, HVPD officers will be wearing masks whenever they exit their vehicles.