GILLESPIE COUNTY, Texas — Gillespie County could soon be exempt from the governor's order requring masks in public. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the county is reporting only 19 active cases as of Monday, which is below the threshold of 20. The county also reports no deaths.
The Gillespie County Sheriff's Office said the numbers don't matter, it won't enforce deputies to wear masks. In a Facebook post, Sheriff Buddy Mills said, "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."
Mills said they don't want to disrespect Gov. Greg Abbott and his order to wear a mask. Mills said if a deputy wears a mask, it could give a criminal "possible tools to harm an officer."
Because of recent allegations of law enforcement misconduct across the nation, the sheriff's office doesn't want to limit communication between citizens and deputies.
Since the county has a small amount of COVID-19 cases, it means the county can fill out a form to opt out of the order and then submit it to the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
However, if you make your way inside of Gillespie County, the city of Fredericksburg is making sure residents are following the mask order. A couple of Fredericksburg store owners think this is the best idea.
"It just wasn't worth it to me to have these, my people, that I deeply care about, exposed to something that could have been prevented," said Jill Elliott, Blackchalk Home and Laundry Owner and Haberdashery Boutique owner. "Now with Abbott's orders, I think it's smart. And, you know, hindsight is 20/20. We should have just kept the masking policy on all along."
"If you're somebody who is at risk or you've got a family member at risk, it's your personal responsibility to take precautions to protect yourself," said Polly Rickert, Dogologie Owner and Fredericksburg City Council Member. "As a business owner, I have a responsibility to protect my employees. And so, that's why I'm doing that."
Sheriff Mills does encourage Gillespie County residents to take precautions themselves and he won't stop a deputy from wearing a face mask if they choose to wear one.
You can read Sheriff Mills' full Facebook post below:
"The Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office will not take actions to enforce Texas Governor’s Office Executive Order GA-29, issued on July 2nd, regarding the mandatory use of face coverings.
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.
This language would subject our agency to liability for even speaking to a person about this order, as that could be construed as a detention. Furthermore, holding someone for the purpose of issuing a citation related to a fine, would be, under current law, an illegal detention.
The Sheriff’s Office must consider the intent of the Texas Constitution in regards to how laws of the land are passed and enforced in this state. Traditionally, law enforcement only enforces laws and statutes that are the product of the legislative process or the product of regulatory authorities authorized by the legislature. The further removed we become from this, the more liability and responsibility we incur as an agency.
The Sheriff will not require deputies to wear face masks on duty for two reasons:
1. The wearing of objects near the face and neck provide an offender possible tools to impose harm to an officer, and this office will not put the deputy in an unnecessary disadvantage during a physical confrontation. For the same reason, deputies at this agency are not required to wear neckties on duty unless in ceremonial events.
2. 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.
The Sheriff’s Office will not prohibit a deputy from wearing a face mask if they so choose.
The Sheriff’s Office 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.
Please be responsible as you celebrate this great holiday weekend commemorating the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.
Happy 4th of July!
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