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Florida Sheriff Tells Deputies They Cannot Wear Masks

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods says 'clear communication' is paramount in these times
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2020 9:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Amid the headlines about employees getting pummeled for trying to enforce mask mandates comes a story very much the opposite out of Florida's Marion County, where sheriff's office employees have been told they cannot wear masks. The Ocala StarBanner reports that Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods sent his 900-person staff a Tuesday email confirming that "my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office—masks will not be worn." And that applies to any resident entering an MCSO office as well; if wearing a mask they will be told to remove it or instructed to leave. Woods explains his reasoning: "In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication."

He adds this: "The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t." There are exceptions in place for those working in certain locations, including hospitals and the jail, though "for all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed." The newspaper rounds up police chiefs from other Florida departments who say masks aren't required, and the Washington Post points to a June analysis of nine major US police departments by ABC News that found "scattershot and randomly enforced policies around mask wearing." But in the case of Marion County, "Woods is among the first law enforcement officials to outright ban masks for his deputies, though," per the Post. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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