Albuquerque Police, deputies shy away from issuing face mask citations

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Law enforcement agencies in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County don’t appear to be any closer toward writing citations against people caught violating the state’s face mask mandate. More than a week after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham directed law enforcement agencies to “aggressively enforce” the two-month-old face mask requirement with up to a $100 fine for those found in violation, the Bernalillo County Sheriff says enforcement is a State Police issue while Albuquerque’s Mayor says officers are focusing on educating and warning violators.

In a news conference Friday morning, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said APD seems “in-step” with the enforcement actions taken by New Mexico State Police. So far, NMSP has written a single citation over face mask-wearing, fining a Portales hardware store for having customers in the store without masks on. As of Friday, APD hadn’t written a single citation related to face mask use.

“I think the State Police have written one citation, I think there’s only been one citation in the entire state,” Keller said Friday. “Our department seems in-step with what’s happening around in the state and again, our goal is compliance, not punishment.”

Keller’s words contrast the message Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham offered in a news conference Thursday. When asked about face mask enforcement, the Governor stressed the importance of enforcement.

“We’re being very clear that warnings are not fair and not enough,” Lujan Grisham said. “I don’t have a decade to get New Mexicans and Americans comfortable with wearing masks.”

While Mayor Keller acknowledged Friday that people should already be familiar with the state’s rules on face masks, Keller said officers are still focused on warning people found out of compliance. Over the last week, the city says APD and 311 received more than 150 calls about health order violations, to include mask wearing. However, the city has only issued 60 warnings and no citations.

“We’re after compliance, not punishment, and so, certainly if people are complying there’s no need to do anything else,” Keller said. “We’ve got to fight violent crime, we’ve got kids who were shot in our parks, these are the issues we’ve got to be focused on.”

On July 3, the Governor’s Office sent a directive to police statewide over face mask enforcement. The letter in part states, “citations can be issued by state and local law enforcement agencies.”

In response to the letter, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales said last week he wouldn’t order deputies to enforce the state’s mask order, claiming enforcement is New Mexico State Police’s responsibility. As of Friday, a spokesman for the Sheriffs said nothing has changed.

Mayor Tim Keller says APD is forwarding one case related to mask wearing for the DA’s Office for potential criminal charges. Keller says APD took a report about a customer at an Albuquerque pet store who’s accused of threatening a store worker with a gun after the customer was told to wear a mask.


New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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