Florida County Sheriff Bans Officers From Wearing Masks

Screengrab / Ocala Star-Banner / YouTube

JakeThomas

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said no masks will be worn by on-duty officers or visitors to his office.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods issued an email this week telling all employees that they are not to wear masks at work and that visitors to his office are not permitted to wear masks either, according to The Ocala Star-Banner.

  • Woods wrote in the email, dated August 11, 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.”
  • The Star-Banner reported that “Ocala City Council passed an emergency ordinance last week requiring people to wear masks inside businesses. Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed it Monday and the council will meet Wednesday to consider overriding the veto.”
  • Officers in Ocala and other Marion County municipalities had advised officers to forgo masks while on duty to ensure their communication to people is clear, according to the report.
  • Woods allowed exceptions for officers “while working at the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, in hospitals and in dealing with people suspected of being infected with COVID-19 or at high risk of complications from the disease.”

“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,” Woods said.

The sheriff said if anyone confronts an employee about them not wearing mask, the employee should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away.

  • As for visitors, Woods noted that the office lobby has barriers to protect staff and visitors.

For those visiting a MCSO office, Woods said “effective immediately, any individual walking in to any one of our lobbies (which includes the main office and all district offices) that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it.” He added, “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.”

  • He also added that “if a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave. If the individual is not comfortable with standing and waiting in the lobby with other individuals, politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction.”
  • The sheriff said given a workforce of 900, “our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”
  • The Star-Banner reported:

At least 36 employees at the Marion County Jail, and seven outside the jail — including patrol officers — have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 200 inmates have tested positive. An infected nurse at the jail recently died.

Read the full report.

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