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Law enforcement associations call on agencies not to enforce Harris County mask requirement

Dr. Robin Armstrong, right, adjusts his mask outside the entrance to The Resort at Texas City nursing home, where he is the medical director, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Texas City, Texas. Armstrong is treating nearly 30 residents of the nursing home with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is unproven against COVID-19 even as President Donald Trump heavily promotes it as a possible treatment. Armstrong said Trump's championing of the drug is giving doctors more access to try it on coronavirus patients. More than 80 residents and workers have tested positive for coronavirus at the nursing home. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Dr. Robin Armstrong, right, adjusts his mask outside the entrance to The Resort at Texas City nursing home, where he is the medical director, Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Texas City, Texas. Armstrong is treating nearly 30 residents of the nursing home with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which is unproven against COVID-19 even as President Donald Trump heavily promotes it as a possible treatment. Armstrong said Trump's championing of the drug is giving doctors more access to try it on coronavirus patients. More than 80 residents and workers have tested positive for coronavirus at the nursing home. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Associations representing police officers statewide and in the Houston area are calling on law enforcement leadership to disregard Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s order requiring people to wear masks in public.

“The Texas Municipal Police Association, and our members of the local law enforcement associations listed below, in conjunction with the Houston Police Officers' Union and the Harris County Deputies’ Organization, implore you not to instruct, direct or even permit your law enforcement officers to enforce County Judge Hidalgo’s executive order regarding citizens wearing masks during this pandemic,” wrote Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, in a statement.

Hidalgo has defended the order as another “tool in the toolbox” for stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is not a police state,” she said at a press conference last week after announcing the new rules. “But we needed to make clear it’s not a recommendation, it’s something we have to do for sake of our safety, our lives and our economy.”

The measure, which carries a fine of $1,000 for violators, drew harsh criticism from GOP officials. The law enforcement associations said that masks can help fight the spread of the new coronavirus, but described the requirement as “tremendously bad public policy.”

“Such a mandate will only serve to erode the relationship between our law enforcement officers and the citizens they serve in a time when law and order and public safety has never been more important,” Lawrence said. — Sami Sparber