Over the last couple weeks throngs of demonstrators descended on downtown San Jose to march against police brutality as part of a nationwide movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd. But while it seemed the vast majority of protestors have been mindful of the other crisis—the COVID-19 pandemic—by donning masks, the cops have largely been seen bare-faced, raising concerns about them spreading the virus.
SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia shrugged off questions about the maskless men and women in blue, saying they had to eschew face-coverings to make it easier to change in and out of all their militaristic equipment.
“The issues with being on the line with the tactical gear, helmet [and] the fact that they have to get [gas] masks on makes it nearly impossible for officers to be wearing their N95 masks while they’re out on the line,” he told the City Council last week.
San Jose isn’t alone in having a police force shirk the burden of masking up. NYPD has come under fire for the same reason, prompting outrage from city officials and residents who called the decision “deliberate and disrespectful.”
Garcia hasn’t been too keen on the mask rule, even before the protests kicked off in San Jose on May 29. Last month, the chief made it clear that his department would not enforce San Jose’s newly adopted face-mask mandate.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office offered the same rationale as Garcia. “The deputies working the protests must be able to quickly put on their department-issued gas masks in the event of an emergency,” Sgt. Michael Low said.
A representative for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, however, told Fly that officers should wear face masks regardless: “These precautions should be taken by everyone present, including law-enforcement personnel.”