Rules on police masks vary widely
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Although authorities have been encouraging people to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many police departments leave it up to officers to decide whether to cover their faces while interacting with the public.
Some cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, require police to wear masks in most situations, but law enforcement officers elsewhere are exempt from such protocols.
In Kansas City, Missouri, two speakers at a Police Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month criticized officers for routinely not wearing masks in public, saying they even had to hand out masks to some at that event.
At the time, the city exempted essential workers such as police officers and first responders from wearing masks, while requiring everyone else to do so outside the home. But Mayor Quinton Lucas removed that exemption on Monday as he issued a series of stricter guidelines citing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks help slow the spread of the coronavirus by inhibiting the flow of respiratory droplets that carry the virus. The CDC guidelines for law enforcement officers essentially mirrors safety guidance for members of the public.
In Minnesota, residents are required to wear masks in indoor businesses or public spaces, and people working outside must wear them when social distancing is not possible.
But police and other first responders have been exempt “in situations where wearing a face covering would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities.”
Jim Mortenson, executive director for the Law Enforcement Labor Services, a Minnesota police union, said reasonable exemptions are necessary.