Mask mandate prompts social media backlash from Colorado law enforcement; AG says he will defend it

DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis’ mask mandate is prompting a new wave of backlash on social media Friday. 

Elected officials across the state are posting, commenting and questioning if parts of the mandate can be enforced legally. 

“We’re not going to be the mask police,” El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said in a video on Facebook Friday. 

“This the governor’s ‘wear a damn mask’ with the state seal stamp on it, that’s all that is,” 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said. 

Brauchler tells FOX31 he personally wears masks all the time but he doesn’t understand how police will be able to enforce the part of this order making it mandatory to wear a mask outside while waiting for transportation.

“It’s not trespassing, it’s not a violation of a public health order, it’s a toothless set of words,” Brauchler said. 

Sheriffs in many parts of the state shared strong words on social media Friday about the executive order.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith shared a post on Facebook arguing the order is not enforceable.

“For one, the governor cannot cite specific statutory authorization for the order. Simply citing a broad statute doesn’t suffice. He can’t cite the provision that provides such authority,” Smith wrote. “Just as importantly, the state legislature just passed and the governor just signed a law placing the liability for violations of constitutional rights on local peace officers. They are personally, financially responsible if they violate someone’s rights. The law does provide them protection if they refuse to follow what they reasonably believe to be an unconstitutional order.”

Elder echoed a similar sentiment in his video post.

“I’m concerned we’re going to be seen as overbearing, as pushing the limits of our authority and frankly we don’t have the man power to field these calls in the first place,” Elder said. 

Sheriffs are stating they will respond to trespassing calls from business owners who have trouble with a patron who refuses to wear a mask and leave their establishment.

Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville, who represents much of Douglas County, publicly posted that he plans to file a lawsuit in response to the mandate.

“I can’t just sit back and let this idly happen, so we retained council and plan to file a law suit,” Neville said in an interview Friday morning with our partners KOA news radio, adding, “When it came to the riots protests and stuff like that, [Polis] was basically silent, didn’t stop any sort of law breakers but he’s spending all this time now mask shaming. I don’t think that’s good for the state of Colorado.”

On Thursday, Polis asked repeatedly for people to wear masks to protect others and help stop the spread of the virus, not because of the mandate. He stated this should not be a political issue.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers reached out to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser about the mandate and the potential lawsuit concerning it.

His office shared the following statement with FOX31:

“The the mask order is legal and the Attorney General would defend it from a legal challenge if one is filed in court. Local law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce the mask order and he thinks they will do so appropriately.”

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