Removal of Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree

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On July 2, 2020, the Cross Timber Gazette reported :

Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree pledged NOT to enforce the new mask mandate issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. The Sheriff further stated that he explicitly "instructed his deputies not to enforce the mask order” which allows local authorities to remove violators from reporting businesses under local trespassing ordinances. According to Murphree, his department has the authority to act but is "too busy" to enforce an order he finds unconstitutional.

As the Sheriff of Denton County, these statements are egregious, as his position sets the precedent for the legitimacy of state law in Denton County overall.

As the chief law enforcement officer for the county, Texas Local Gov. Code Sec. 362.002 orders and authorizes the Sheriff to “assist other law enforcement officers under interlocal agreements” which currently exist between Denton County and the cities therein. Furthermore, Sec. 291.003 states that he "has charge and control of courthouses subject to commissioners court regulations,” which means he would be the enforcement arm in these high traffic and behavior modeling environments in particular. Texas Government Code Sec. 411.009 also states that his duties and responsibilities require him to “cooperate with the director of Department of Public Safety in crime prevention and public safety.”

Murphree’s own statements to the press and therefore to the community make it clear that he believes it is within his power to enforce the order but that he is using his position to challenge the Governor’s authority and the law by declaring it unconstitional. Thus, he has ascribed to himself interpretive and judicial powers that he does not hold, and has thereby encouraged dangerous, unlawnful behavior within Denton County. Collectively, his statements and actions have set a dangerous precedent for Texas, which is that if a Sheriff doesn’t agree with a state law, he simply doesn’t have to enforce it.

Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree took an oath to enforce the law, not interpret it and he has publicly announced an intentional refusal to perform his official duties. Therefore, if his conscience will not allow him to perform his duties, he should forefeit his job, not make up the law as he goes along. 

According to Texas Local Gov Code Sec. 87.011(3), a County Sheriff can be removed from office with a petition and trial for "official misconduct” or “intentional, unlawful behavior relating to official duties” or “the execution of the law,” which “includes an intentional or corrupt failure, refusal, or neglect of an officer to perform a duty imposed on the officer by law.” According to Sec. 87.015, we can petition for his removal via a Distric Court and we aim to do just that!