I understand that public employees, including Lt. Jason Short, have the constitutional right of free speech. I understand that he was not on duty at the time or speaking on behalf of the police department or the city. Nevertheless, he should be admonished for his social media posts.

Lt. Short is espousing disregard for a legally enacted mask mandate. Like anti-vaxxers, he espouses anarchy, the nonrecognition of authority. Citing laws protecting “personal freedom” and “free speech,” he urged people to violate the mask mandate.

The reality is that COVID-19 is serious. It is a public safety issue, and everyone is either part of the solution or part of the problem. Wearing a mask in public, getting vaccinated, limiting gatherings are many parts of the solution.

Police departments are expected to be fair, honest, respect the law and be a part of the solution. Police cite individuals for behaviors potentially injurious to the public. Not wearing a mask in public should be added to the list that includes drunk driving, speeding and jay walking.

The tacit approval by Police Chief Steven Russo of Lt. Short’s postings suggests a culture within the police department minimizing it’s mission of public safety. Posting a message that residents should not comply with a law goes beyond “right to publicly discuss and give opinions.” It is insurrection.

JOHN OGREN

Albuquerque, N.M.