According to the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office (GSCO) Facebook page, they will not enforce the statewide face mask order put in place by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. They will also not require deputies to wear a face mask while they’re on duty. This comes just days after Abbott’s order mandating the use of masks in the majority of public places. The order applies to residents of counties that have more than 20 positive pandemic cases of the COVID-19 virus. Gillespie County was last reported to have 26 active out of a total of 41 coronavirus cases. The county seat is Fredericksburg. The town of Luckenbach, of country music fame, is also located in the county.
The rationale for the GCSO’s decision is that the mandate “strips law enforcement of any fundamental tools necessary to enforce compliance.” They also said the order has specific language that, in effect, keeps law enforcement from effectively enforcing it via means of detention, confinement, or arrest of any violators, including even speaking to someone about the face mask order, which could be interpreted as detention. There is also no language in the order pertaining to repeat offenders.
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GSCO will not prohibit its deputies from wearing a face covering, if they so choose, citing officer safety and their abilities to clearly communicate with those they represent and keep safe. Their Facebook post reads as follows: “The wearing of objects near the face and neck provide an offender possible tools to impose harm to an officer. 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.” In addition, the GSCO stated they did “not make this statement as any disrespect to Governor Abbott” and that they encourage everyone to take every reasonable precaution to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.