On the other hand, City Attorney Jay Rubin thinks officers have the authority to enforce the Governor’s order based on her “directive,” which she sent to “relative personnel” on July 3.
The Governor’s directive was sent to City Manager Morris Madrid and was discussed at the City Commission’s July 8 meeting.
Apodaca, in a phone interview, said he went through the laws that pertain to public health orders, including the one cited in the directive, 12-10-10. They only give the Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety (the State Police) the authority to enforce the public health order, Apodaca said.
Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, also in a phone interview, said, “I think Chief Apodaca is on the right track.” He searched the laws thoroughly and DOH and State Police have authority to enforce the Governor’s public health order, not local law enforcement.
“Law 12-10-10 gives the state’s all hazard emergency management program members the authority to enforce the public health order,” Hamilton said. He checked with Sierra County Emergency Manager Paul Tooley to see if the county had any members. “He told me, ‘I never heard of that.’”
“If the City wants its officers to enforce the health order,” Hamilton said, “it should give them the tools it needs by passing a local ordinance.”
Other cities have done so, Hamilton said, with Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces passing ordinances that give local law enforcement clear authority to enforce the Governor’s public health order.
But Chief Apodaca would rather not have such an ordinance on the books. He thinks mask-wearing should be enforced by businesses.
“If a business won’t serve me without a mask,” Apodaca said, “and I refuse to leave, that’s trespassing.” His police force would enforce trespassing, not mask-wearing, when and if businesses ran into trouble.
Mayor Sandra Whitehead agreed. “I’m sure business people have been instructed what to do.”
“I spoke with the Farmers Market for two days,” Whitehead said. “They do it because they like doing it, not because they have to do it. They ask people to put on masks and people harass them. Now the Farmers Market is closed because they don’t like this, because people won’t wear masks.”
Whitehead warned that if people don’t cooperate by wearing masks, businesses could be shut down again. “All the numbers are spiking,” she said.
The Farmers Market has worked out a deal with the police department, Apodaca said. “They said they were going to open back up on July 25th and we will do walk-throughs.”