Leaders affirm: Law enforcement officers should be wearing masks when interacting with the public
Posted December 1, 2020 6:00 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — On Sunday, Raleigh police were caught on camera not wearing masks in southeast Raleigh, an area that has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Wake County.
A former newspaper reporter, Sue Sturgis, posted photos to Facebook showing two Raleigh officers not wearing masks at a traffic stop on North Raleigh Boulevard.
"You could see [in] that photo they were leaning into the window, talking to the person through the window and we could see that the driver had a mask on," described Sturgis.
Sturgis also emailed the photos to city officials, including the police chief.
"It's just wrong. We have a mask mandate in Raleigh, and for a public servant who has to interact so closely with the public to not be wearing a mask is really concerning," said Sturgis.
“Our members, who are out in the field, when they are going to be within that six-foot range of someone, even outdoors, they are expected to have their mask on," said First Sgt. Chris Knox, with North Carolina Highway Patrol.
Knox said members are instructed to follow Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders but admitted there have been times when troopers have fallen short.
"Are they immune to forgetting just like anyone else? No. I've gone on a diaper run and have gotten to the front door of the Target and went without my mask and turned around," he added.
Durham police and Cary police say officers in those departments are required to follow Cooper's executive order.
A spokesman for Wake Forest police said the agency does not have a mask-wearing policy but staff is instructed to comply with CDC and state health guidelines. He added that there are circumstances that may not allow officers to wear a mask or an officer might not wear a mask when talking on the radio so that communication is clear.
Wake County deputies are highly encouraged to wear masks, but the sheriff said there are also certain instances where deputies may not wear masks while responding calls.
"This is a problem that needs to be fixed," said Sturgis.
She said the Raleigh police chief responded to her concerns within about an hour with an email saying officers should have been wearing masks and the situation would be addressed immediately.
"Clearly, this is something they are paying attention to, and I'm really glad about that," she added.
“We are in this together. We truly take that to heart, and we mean it, and we know just because someone has violated the law - it doesn’t mean that we should needlessly expose them to something," said Knox.
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin responded to the Facebook post saying all city employees should wear masks as outlined in Cooper's order.