Anna Police chief issues mask challenge to residents

Joshua Baethge,
The Anna-Melissa Tribune
Anna Police Chief Jeff Caponera, left, addresses the crowd during a peaceful protest that took place in the city in June as Mayor Nate Pike and others look on. As part of a lighthearted online contest, Caponera has challenged residents to wear face masks and pose for photos with Anna Police officers.

ANNA - Anna Police Chief Jeff Caponera is challenging residents to demonstrate their creativity.

Last week he sent out the call for them to share their most creative face mask designs. They are asked to submit a picture of themselves wearing their mask with an Anna Police officer.

The winner, as voted on by residents, will be treated to lunch by Caponera.

“We’ve got so much going on right now. It just seems like everything that is going on in the world is trying to divide us,” Caponera said. “I thought, `Let’s make a little fun out of a bad situation.’”

The rules of the contest are fairly straightforward.

Offensive and vulgar designs are prohibited. In order to be considered, contestants must be wearing their mask and they must pose for a photo with an officer.

Caponera encourages neighbors to flag down police for a picture if they are not in process of conducting official business. They may also reach out to the department at policecomments@annatexas.gov. If an officer is available, one will come by for a photo.

While the mask contest is intended to be a fun diversion, the chief said it also has some practical benefits.

First, it helps ensure voluntary compliance with mask recommendations while showing that the department is not trying to jam another law down the community’s throat. It also works to bridge the gap between the department and Anna residents.

“We want people to know that we’re there for them and supportive of them, and hopefully our officers feel supported by the community as well,” Caponera said. “I thought, `Let’s do something fun. I’ll buy lunch for someone who took the time to show off their creative side and go from there.’”

Mask contest entries should be sent to policecomments@annatexas.gov. The submission deadline is July 19. Winners will be announced during the week of July 27.

This year has been a challenging one for the police department.

Caponera said he’s proud of the way the department has responded despite having limited resources compared to other locales. For example, it proved that it could handle a large protest march and have the event go off smoothly.

The department has also managed to maintain an overall positive and productive relationship with the community despite the issues of the day.

As for COVID-19, the evolving nature of the situation presents many variables that the department can’t control. It has forced it to develop new responses all the time. The one benefit is that by fine-tuning its processes on a regular basis, the department is much better prepared to deal with other unexpected scenarios should they ever arise.

“This is an unprecedented time for us. What gets our officers through the day is positivity,” Caponera said. “Our community right now is really showing us an outpouring of support and that’s what makes it worth it for our officers to come in every day.”