Law enforcement defer to State Police to cite those not wearing masks in New Mexico

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made it clear the state will crack down on people not wearing masks. Who’s going to enforce it and write those $100 tickets? Some law enforcement agencies say they are deferring to New Mexico State Police on issues of people refusing to wear masks in public.

Tingley beach was filled with people out fishing Thursday morning, some with masks, some without. “Today we’re told by rangers here that State Police are going to come and check for people using masks,” says Pete Ramirez.

Even after the governor announced Wednesday, mask-wearing will be strongly enforced and people could even face $100 fines, KRQE crews spotted dozens of people in the Albuquerque area mask-free. “Not wearing a mask is like being a drunk driver, you’re going to harm yourself and other people at the same time,” says Jan Schoenhaus.

Belen Police, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the Albuquerque Police Department all said they will not be enforcing the order but rather deferring to State Police to cite individuals not wearing face masks. “That’s actually up to State Police but certainly with respect to our department we’re going to handle it the same way as we’ve handled restaurant closures and occupancy and so forth so that means first education, maybe a series of warnings multiple steps before we would ever look at an actual fine,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

This order still puts a lot of responsibility on businesses, who could take another hit and face fines for allowing customers inside without masks. “There’s always the resisters but we don’t want to pick a fight with anybody,” says Lilia Chacon, City of Santa Fe, Spokesperson.

Business owners hope people will think twice before leaving their house without a mask. “In order to honor your local small businesses, keep each other safe, wear the masks, it’s not a big ask whether you believe in it or not, it’s not a big ask,” said Prakash Sundaram, CEO, Talent Management System.

The governor’s office says that all local law enforcement are empowered to enforce the public health order, as it has the full weight of the law and they should​ enforce it. KRQE News 13 spoke to workers at a handful of chain stores who’ve been told to allow customers in without masks to avoid confrontations.

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