·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Florida Sheriff Takes Firm Stance Against Public Safety, Bans Mask Usage in Department Office

— August 13, 2020

In an e-mail to employees, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said that not enough “experts” have said that masks are effective in preventing the spread of novel coronavirus.

A Florida sheriff has taken a firm stance against public safety, demanding that citizens not enter his office if they are wearing a mask.

According to CNN, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods unveiled the new prohibition on Monday.

Woods’s personal mandate comes mere days after Ocala, Florida, passed an ordinance requiring mask usage in public spaces.

While significant evidence suggests that masks are effective in preventing the spread of novel coronavirus, Woods claims that masks pose a safety hazard to his deputies. And because Ocala’s mask ordinance allows public entities to offer exemptions as they see fit, Woods has decided to prohibit any and all face coverings in his department.

“Now, this ordinance exempts government entities and leaves the decisions to the figure heads,” Woods wrote in an August 11th e-mail, circulated around his office and obtained by CNN. “So, as for us, my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office—masks will not be worn.”

In other words, Woods has effectively prohibited anyone affiliated with the sheriff’s department from protecting their own health—or the health of those around them—whenever they are in the office.

However, Woods did list several exceptions to his own rule, saying masks must be worn by deputies and staff when they are in court, visiting schools or hospitals, and on patrol. He also directed employees to ensure they are wearing a face covering whenever they respond to calls involving a “High Risk Elderly Individual.”

A woman wearing an N95-style mask. Image via Pexels. Public domain.

But perhaps the most mind-boggling aspect of Woods’s order, though, is that visitors to the sheriff’s office are subject to its provisions. Anyone who walks into the sheriff’s department wearing a mask will be asked to remove the covering—if they do not, then they will be asked to leave.

Woods appears not to have made any concession, such as allowing safety-minded visitors to show their face to a camera before putting their mask back on.

In his e-mail, he defended his decision by saying that “current events” make it more dangerous than ever to be a law enforcement officer, while simultaneously suggesting that masks impede communications.

“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, that is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into the lobby,” Woods wrote.

Interestingly, Woods did not appear to provide any rationale as to why deputies, at least, should not be allowed to wear masks—but he did say he expects “whining” to accompany the order’s fulfillment.

“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,” Woods said. “Since the beginning of this pandemic [sic] the operation of this office has not changed [sic] and no wearing of masks has been put in place. With just at 900 employees [sic], our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”

The British Broadcasting Company notes that the county jail—administered by the sheriff’s department—has hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases, among inmates and staff alike.

Furthermore, Florida now counts among the nation’s viral epicenters. The state has over a half-million cases and thousands of deaths.


Coronavirus: Florida sheriff bans deputies from wearing masks

Florida sheriff bans his deputies and office visitors from wearing masks on a day his county broke records for Covid-19 deaths

Join the conversation!