Florida Sheriff Bans Officers, Guests From Wearing Masks Citing Safety Concerns

(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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A sheriff in Marion County, Florida, is telling his officers and guests they can’t wear masks for safety reasons, despite some cities mandating masks.

County Sheriff Billy Woods sent an email to his department on Aug. 11 telling officers they will not be allowed to wear a mask on the job, citing recent anti-police sentiment, according to the Ocala-StarBanner.

“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 and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” the email read, according to the Ocala-StarBanner.

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - APRIL 08: Miami Beach police officers wear protective masks as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis along with other officials and politicians speak during a press conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center on April 08, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Gov. DeSantis spoke about the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers converting the convention center into a field hospital with 400 regular hospital beds and 50 ICU beds, with the ability to scale up to 1,000 beds if needed, as the region prepares for a possible surge of coronavirus patients. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – APRIL 08: Miami Beach police officers wear protective masks  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the email, Woods said guests at the Sheriff’s office are protected by barriers and do not need a mask.

“If a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave,” with Woods saying guests can remain outside of the building until their appointment is ready if they do not feel comfortable sitting in the lobby with other unmasked individuals.

In the same email, Woods tells officers “when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office-masks will not be worn.”

Woods says officers who are at high risk of complications from the coronavirus or who are working in the courthouse, jail, public schools, hospitals or with persons suspected of being sick can wear a mask.

However, Woods says if law enforcement action is needed in one of the above areas, officers will need to remove their masks “immediately.”

Woods says if officers are confronted for not wearing a mask, officers should send the complaints his way.

“From that point on it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question,” Woods said, according to the email.

The County Commissioner Carl Zalak told Ocala-StarBanner he agrees with Woods’ decision, “I agree with the Sheriff base on his best judgment and I appreciate the way he handled it.”

Belleview Police Chief Terry Holland also agrees with Woods, noting the lines of communication need to be clear for officers and individuals, according to Ocala-StarBanner.

In Ocala, the city council passed a mandate last week requiring masks to be worn in businesses, but Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed it Monday. The council overrode the mayor’s veto Wednesday, requiring masks to be worn in businesses effective immediately. (RELATED: Man Spit In Child’s Face Because He Wouldn’t Take Off His Face Mask, Police Say)

Marion County added 13 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to Ocala-StarBanner. Meanwhile, Marion County has nearly 7,000 confirmed cases of the virus.