WACO, Texas — Waco police officers will start responding to calls about individuals who refuse to wear face coverings, Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver announced in a press conference July 8.
Previously the responsibility fell on businesses to refuse service to anyone not wearing a face covering, but as the number of cases continues to trend upward, Deaver says people are still refusing to wear them.
This has caused problems for local businesses hoping to enforce both the mayor's and the governor's executive orders mandating the use of face coverings.
"We don't want our businesses having to be the police in this situation," Deaver said.
So far, no citations have been handed out to Waco businesses, according to Deaver. However, he said he hopes the presence of officers will help them enforce the order better.
"What we want to do is just make sure people are compliant to the orders and educate people who don't want to do it," Ofc. Garen Bynum, Waco PD's Public Information Officer, said.
According to Ofc. Bynum, if you are stopped by an officer for failing to comply with the executive order, that officer will only hand out a written warning for a first offense.
Repeat offenders can be fined up to $250 under the governor's executive order.
Waco officers will also carry extra masks with them so individuals who do not have a face covering can wear one.
If an individual who is not wearing a face covering refuses to leave a business, he or she can be charged with criminal trespass if the business decides to press charges against them.
"There's nothing inside of us that wants us to get to that point," Ofc. Bynum said. "What we want is to educate people and be able to provide safety to our community."
According to Ofc. Bynum, Waco PD plans to use more officers to help enforce the order. This will make sure no typical police duties will be affected.
"We're not pulling detectives away from cases," he said. "We're not pulling normal patrol officers that work their normal beats away from those beats."
The change in enforcement comes after Governor Abbott made a 180 on his stance on the subject. Previously, the governor had made it clear he did not think individuals should be affected by ordinances.
But, in an interview with KXAN in Austin Wednesday, Abbott changed course, saying, "local officials do need to step up and enforce these executive orders."
Businesses can report individuals who are not wearing a mask, but they are asked to call code enforcement instead of 911.
Waco Code Enforcement can be reached at (254) 750-5970.