Police Should Wear Masks—But in San Jose, Officers Shrug Off Santa Clara County Health Order

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.”

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26 Comments

  1. To me, SJPD’s refusal to wear masks and Chief Garcia’s bizarre reflexive defense of that refusal is indicative of what is wrong with SJPD. It is a huge sign of disrespect to the public to potentially endanger their health during a pandemic when it would be so easy to do so, and Garcia thinks it would be too much trouble for the officers to pull the masks off and stick them in their back pockets when they need to change equipment? The pandemic is a serious issue itself, but this mask situation is actually a litmus test of how accountable the police officers feel to they are to following the laws established by the city council. I think the truth is Garcia just doesn’t want to be the mean dad telling his officers what to do.

    • I support the SJPD. When Dr Maldonado of Stanford University Medical School says 80% of the ppl that get the virus will have mild to zero symptoms, I am not worried. Stanford and a Chinese study in April also said the virus transmits indoors.
      I don’t know anyone that has had it either. I have also visited the hospitals in the area and found that there were no “war zone” scenarios like you hear in the Media. In fact, they were slow and I have never seen the parking lots so empty.
      A few days ago AOC of NY said that governors should keep the states locked down so Trump doesn’t win.
      Is that why ppl’s lives are being ruined, for political reasons??? Are we to expect that it will get worst until after elections???

  2. So, how many cops who were present at the protests and the concurrent riots and looting have died of COVID?
    The state of Oregon has over twice the population of Santa Clara County. It has had only 159 deaths. My son tells me that Oregonians are not masking up en masse. With all Czarina Cody’s repressive measures, SCC with less than half the population of Oregon has 145 deaths.
    Total number of infections are meaningless, because 98% of those infected recover with no medical intervention. And, the vast majority of those who died had underlying fatal medical conditions.
    Let’s stop the repression and give Sara Cody a one way plane ticket to New York where she can commune with Cuomo.

  3. San Jose Police wore masks as they shot Tear Gas canisters into a peaceful protest which was protesting police brutality against its citizens.

    “ There are also certain gray areas in the treaty that are open to interpretation. For example, riot-control agents such as tear gas are prohibited as a method of warfare, but they are permitted if designed strictly for law-enforcement purposes.”

    Time Is past due to de-militarize our police departments.

    • “San Jose Police wore masks as they shot Tear Gas canisters into a [b]peaceful protest[/b] which was protesting police brutality against its citizens.”

      Your comment should be removed per the terms of SJI. You’re spewing lies and misinformation.

      The protest had been declared an unlawful assembly prior to what you described. If/when a peaceful protest is declared an unlawful assembly, and you’re not intelligent enough to leave, you are inviting any and all means of intermediary force used to disperse you and those around you disobeying lawful orders. It’s that simple. To expect police, when out-numbered 10-1 at minimum, to softly pat people on the shoulder while taking active assaults in the form of flying bricks, rocks, frozen water bottles and glass bottles, is absolute lunacy.

      • It is a peaceful protest. If you leave when asked to, it’s not much of a protest.
        But you’re probably too clueless to understand that.

      • I am one of those people who believes there is no such thing as an unlawful peaceful protest.
        If the protesters are overwhelmingly peaceful, but there are a few who are violent, don’t just stand there and glare at the peaceful majority while an officer drones on and on through the bull horn with the declaration that the entire protest is unlawful. Take a squad of cops, locate and arrest the violent ones, and let everyone else blow off steam peacefully. From what I heard from Chief Garcia and Captain Dwyer, it’s clear to me that the PD had people embedded among the protesters. So, they could point out the bad actors and themseek and detain squad could arrest them. The all or nothing approach may be convenient for the cops, the easy way out; but it does not pass Constitutional muster.

  4. There are photos circulating of the SJPD briefings prior to the protests that show them outside the SJ Arena shoulder to shoulder not wearing masks. Hundreds of them. It shows their attitude that laws and rules do not apply to them. If they start getting sick, they will blame the protesters. SJ City Council needs to get SJPD under control. Instead the Mayor is helping the Chief get ready to retire and run for public office.

    • Laws and rules do apply and SJPD appears to be in strict compliance with the county order:
      https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/learn-what-to-do.aspx#howto
      “You are required to wear a face covering whenever you are at a business (even if it’s an outdoor business) as an employee or a customer, and whenever you are on public transit.
      At all other times when you are out in public, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.
      Who Should Not Wear a Face Covering…
      Any worker to the extent wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard at work under established health and safety guidelines.”

    • If I had to speculate, I’d guess that Chief Garcia is way too smart to run for public office. He could retire from SJPD with a great pension we and our children will fund, and move on to be Chief in some smaller town in an area he would like to live out his days in.

  5. So what. San Jose is full of petty people who want to find fault with everyone. Get a life. Lucky to have a police force that prevented a situation like NYC.

    • NYC was among the worst. San Jose Police wannabe Army Soldiers, could not see becoming second to the Brutality shown in NY and Buffalow. Out came the night sticks pounding on the backs of our citizens protesting the brutality they saw around the country and in Minneapolis, MN.

      Out came the riot guns held by agitators like Police Officer Jared Yuen. Out came the tear gas propellants. If we would not give them a fight then the police would incite us to fight. Mom’s and Pops, kids and cousins, grandpa and grandma were all struck down with the mighty force of our Police. What kind of City does that?

      How else can they get recognition from their fellow officers around the country? They needed to be tough! Except in doing so they became pathetic in the eyes of the world and this city.

      There is no better time than now to acknowledge mistakes and send a signal to the community that SJPD gets IT.

      Change is gonna come. We will see to it, as we ARE the PEOPLE. We are the ones that will see this through. Garcia and Liccardo can become part of the solution and have wonderful careers in politics or they can become part of the problem and will be dealt with, by US the PEOPLE.

      Rodney was the start and I believe with George it will end. If you want to be a better cop, a better citizen, a better person, then let the love shine through. Respect your fellow man and woman.

      Like CM Raul Peralez once said on the Dais At City Hall, let’s spread the love. Although it was said in response to something else and entirely different I was speaking to council about, I still remember the words. Let’s put them to work.

      We are all here on this Earth for such a short and wonderful time I would hate to see our time wasted beating each other up. Peace Baby! 😚

      • “Out came the riot guns held by agitators like Police Officer Jared Yuen. Out came the tear gas propellants. If we would not give them a fight then the police would incite us to fight.”

        So Bruce, you saw what was going on behind the person(s) filming Officer Yuen and his colleagues that day? You saw the numerous items a violent rioter threw at the Officers in front of Officer Yuen? You heard the hateful, racial comments being directed at Officer Yuen? That’s acceptable behavior in your opinion?? I don’t condone Officer Yuen’s behavior that day, however the behavior of the violent rioters in front of him and his fellow officers was in no way acceptable, especially considering they had all been given numerous, constant announcements that they were breaking the law and needed to disperse. Instead, they used violence, even against one another to create chaos… the opposite of peace.

      • Oh Brucy, How come your not whining about peaceful protesters not wearing masks. If the law is so important to you why aren’t you demanding the PD’s stopping looting and the unlawful take over of city halls and burning of innocent businesses, murder of store keepers, police officers, and area residents
        by this mob of ANTIFA commies. You can’t destroy law and order, and then Demand, Law and Order.

  6. “makes it nearly impossible for officers to be wearing their N95 masks while they’re out on the line,” Excuse me, but why do police officers merit N95 masks when healthcare professionals who are helping people can’t get enough masks? Reform the police now! Demilitarize and make them follow the rules like everyone else.

    • Nancy,

      Police Officers frequently have contact with the homeless and transient population, who are quite literally vectors of disease and viruses. They have been forgotten and abandoned by politicians and the public, and the police along with extremely brave and admirable social workers are left to be their keepers.

      Additionally, Police Officers respond to very volatile and unpredictable situations on a daily basis, usually multiple times a day, and have to touch and get very close to a variety of people, indoors and outdoors. If a large number of Police Officers were to even simply get exposed to Covid-19 positive individuals, let alone contract the virus, it could result in massive self quarantine mandates within the department. These mandates would inevitably place a burden on police service delivery and response, potentially leaving huge parts of the city at even greater risk of crime and violence.

      • Funny, some people look at this picture and say here are some brave cops lovingly handling poor virus-ridden homeless people abandoned by society.
        I see pigs in riot gear getting ready to hurt and gas innocent peaceful protesters. And I think they’re horrible, brutal people. I don’t trust them to protect me.

  7. Okay now you just sound desperate. This is the best you can complain about. Ah geez. Your better then this.

  8. “a representative for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department…”.

    An anonymous SJI writer quotes an anonymous PHD representative about SJPD’s “should” mask behavior. SJPD *shouldn’t* have to restrain Burn, Loot, Murder demonstrators, yet here we are.

    New England Journal of Medicine, “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the COVID-19 Era”, May 21, states, “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection.” This has been WHO’s position too.

    More diligence and journalistic integrity please.

  9. Police are not required to wear masks per health order, this article is misleading. It is an open question if they *should* or not regardless of the order, but please correct the article.

    The Santa Clara County Health Order, Section 15.d, exempts police:
    “For the purposes of this Order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and others who need to perform essential services are categorically exempt from this Order to the extent they are performing those essential services.”

  10. Once again, your failure to properly conduct a background investigation into facts renders your objectivity suspect. The Health Order specifically exempts law enforcement.

    https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/order-health-officer-05-18-20.aspx

    15: Definitions and Exemptions

    d. For the purposes of this Order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel, and others who need to perform essential services are categorically exempt from this Order to the extent they are performing those essential services. Further, nothing in this Order shall prohibit any individual from performing or accessing “Essential Governmental Functions,” as determined by the governmental entity performing those functions in the County. Each governmental entity shall identify and designate appropriate personnel, volunteers, or contractors to continue providing and carrying out any Essential Governmental Functions, including the hiring or retention of new personnel or contractors to perform such functions. Each governmental entity and its contractors must employ all necessary emergency protective measures to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and all Essential Governmental Functions shall be performed in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements to the greatest extent feasible.

  11. Do As I Say Not As I Do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3a9yh8-Pec

    Here we have Public Health’s Dr. Cody in late April during a more stringent SIP stage, speaking indoors without a mask. Neither is County Counsel James Williams wearing a mask.

    Mr. Williams crafted the directives that provide for fines, imprisonment, or both for violating SIP directives. Too late to make a citizen’s arrest?

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