Police chiefs from Texas to Washington are standing up against draconian orders from local leaders demanding strict adherence to extreme social distancing measures to curb the spread of the novel Wuhan coronavirus.
The Houston Police Officers’ Union declared Wednesday that its members would refrain from enforcing local County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s ruling deeming it mandatory for any individual over the age of 10 to wear a mask in public.
“The Houston Police Officers’ Union believes everyone should be wearing a mask in public, in order to protect themselves from the virus and we are encouraging all of our officers to wear a mask,” the union wrote in a statement. “However, we draw the line at the draconian measures Hidalgo has decided to engage in.”
“Our officers work every single day to bridge the gap with our community and earn their trust, we will not stand idly by and allow Hidalgo to tear that bridge down, with her horrific leadership and echo chamber decision making.”
HPOU response to @LinaHidalgoTX draconian mask order: “Now we want to be very clear, HPOU believes everyone should be wearing a mask in public, in order to protect themselves from the virus and we are encouraging all of our officers to wear a mask. However, we draw the line…” pic.twitter.com/XbphfNYHii
— Houston Police Officers' Union (@HPOUTX) April 22, 2020
The police union said it had contacted the state attorney general’s office to determine whether Hidalgo’s ruling was even constitutional, noting that until then, members were encouraged to use discretion in enforcement of the measure as resources are already stretched thin from the pandemic.
In Washington, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney announced Tuesday that his officers would also abstain from enforcement of lockdown orders, joining Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond who said he would not stop churches and business from opening with reasonable distancing measures in place.
“As I have previously stated, I have not carried out any enforcement for the current stay-at-home order,” Fortney wrote on Facebook. “I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion. We have the right to peacefully assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination.”
Fortney challenged Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s lockdown orders as inconsistent, deeming some businesses essential over others. While government construction projects may continue Fortney points out, private contractors remain out of work.
“As I arrive to work at the courthouse, I see landscapers show up each day to install new landscape and maintain our flowerbeds,” Fortney wrote. “However, a father who owns a construction company and works alone while outdoors is not allowed to run his business to make a living to provide for his wife and children?”
“This contradiction is not okay and is bordering on unethical,” said Fortney.
Further east in Michigan, four sheriffs in the northwest part of the mitten also announced last week that they would refuse to enforce Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders which have been the most extreme in the country.
By the stroke of a pen, Whitmer has deemed it illegal for Michiganders to travel “between residences” or buy seeds while lottery tickets remain permitted to purchase.
Whitmer, the sheriffs said in a joint statement, “has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”
“As a result, we will not have strict enforcement of these orders,” the sheriffs wrote. “We will deal with every case as an individual situation and apply common sense in assessing the apparent violation… We believe that we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties.”
As the pandemic over the Wuhan coronavirus stretches into the next month, wreaking havoc on the American economy, an anxious public is losing its patience with increasingly strict lockdowns keeping millions out of work while models have proven inaccurate.
Last week, several state governors announced they would allow shelter-in-place orders to expire either on or before April 30 with certain conditions in place to kickstart their stalled economies while keeping the virus at bay.
States preparing partial reopenings include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas.