Art Acevedo, the chief of police for the Houston Police Department, criticized the removal of the mask mandate in Texas on Tuesday.
Acevedo said masks are now a political and contentious issue in the U.S., warning that businesses in the state may create conflict by exerting their property rights on customers during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”
“So you know, ‘No mask, no service’ means you can’t be in that business and I can assure you we’ll start seeing our calls for service and conflict go up — conflict that could’ve been avoided simply by continuing to follow the science and being patient,” Acevedo said.
“We’re almost to that finish line and I think this is a step in the wrong direction,” Acevedo said.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the state’s businesses can return to full operation March 10.
The police chief explained that if a person “refuses to wear the mask and refuses to leave” a business that enforces mask-wearing, it is considered trespassing. The police chief said the penalty could lead to “a criminal trespass warning which means they can’t even come back to that business for a year.”
Acevedo said officials have issued “enforcement guidelines” and said they’re “looking for voluntary compliance” instead of conflict.
The police chief claimed that some Texans are more invested “in their own individual rights than the health and safety of their family members, their friends, their neighbors and the first responders here in Houston.”
“We’re gonna see people die,” Acevedo said.
The Houston police chief harshly criticized Abbott, saying things could go wrong “because our governor was more interested in political theater than in actually doing the right thing for the right reasons.”
“Quite frankly, he’s gonna continue to wear his mask, as my understanding because he understands the risk to his own health and so if it’s good enough for him to wear a mask, I’m not sure why he doesn’t care enough about the rest of Texans to continue to follow the science,” Acevedo added.