They Got The Memos, But LA Cops Still Aren't Wearing Masks

Police in Van Nuys on June 1. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

L.A. County law enforcement officers aren't wearing masks while on duty, despite the county COVID-19 mask requirement and mandates from their own departments.

On April 15, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department sent this memo that mandated the use of facial coverings in all situations where staff interact with other employees or the public.

The only exception is if wearing a mask jeopardizes the safety of a deputy.

A month later, LAPD Chief Michel Moore sent a similar memo to his staff.

But officers throughout the county from both departments have been spotted recently not wearing masks.

A Twitter account called LAPD Un-Masked is gathering photos of law enforcement officers not wearing masks.

One video shows Chief Moore maskless while shaking hands with a protester.

On July 4, the LAPD announced the first death among its personnel from complications due to the coronavirus, Senior Detention Officer Erica McAdoo. The department said on Monday that 320 of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week he knew about photos of maskless officers.

"My goal is to minimize those down to zero," Garcetti said. "I don't pretend that tomorrow we won't be able to see another one."

The mayor said he expects the LAPD to enforce its mask requirement.

LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the chief reminds officers of the importance of wearing a mask through regular roll call visits and a video.

Rubenstein also said photos can be taken "out of context," that officers might have an urgent need to communicate without a mask, although social media users have posted photos of police chatting in groups outside or interacting with a family and child on the street.

"Police officers that don't wear the mask are wrong," Police Commission member Steve Soboroff told us. "You've gotta get used to it."

Soboroff said Moore had talked to him about the issue, adding, "he hears about it a lot."

But Soboroff thinks law enforcement is getting unfairly singled out. "Cops are the flavor of the day to criticize right now," he said.

'CONTACT THE UNIT OR STATION'

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Deputy Grace Medrano sent us this statement: "If deputies were seen after [April 15] you would have to contact the unit or station and inquire the reason why a mask was not worn. Please keep in mind there may have been an exception at that moment due to the type of incident or call for service."

As of Monday, 335 sworn Sheriff's personnel and 188 civilian staff had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the department's website.

County Inspector General Max Huntsman told Sheriff Alex Villanueva in a June 25 letter that in responding to recent deputy shootings, he was "deeply saddened to see absolutely no sworn personnel wearing masks while in close proximity, from deputies to executive staff."

He also noted that a member of the public posted "a video of you and staff in public and in close proximity, also without masks," adding, "I hope the video was taken before the governor's order" to wear masks.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Station in West Hollywood said it will start enforcing the county mask requirement for civilians with a $250 fine for the first offense ($300 including the $50 fee). The fine goes up to $1,000 for a second offense, $2,000 for a third, and $5,000 for a fourth.

"Can we make citizens arrests on deputies that aren't following this?" wrote one Twitter user.

Cases of COVID19 are at record levels in L.A. County.

UPDATES:

July 6, 11:30 a.m.: This article was updated to correct the date of the LASD memo to employees.

July 6, 6:25 p.m.: This article was updated to include the LASD's and LAPD's new tallies of employees who tested positive for COVID-19.

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On Tuesday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he knew about photos of maskless officers on social media.


"My goal is to minimize those down to zero," Garcetti said. "I don't pretend that tomorrow we won't be able to see another one."


The mayor said he expects the LAPD to enforce its mask requirement.


LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the chief reminds officers of the importance of wearing a mask through regular roll call visits and a video.


Rubenstein also said photos can be taken "out of context," that officers might have an urgent need to communicate without a mask, although social media users have posted photos of police chatting in groups outside or interacting with a family and child on the street.

"Police officers that don't wear the mask are wrong," Police Commission member Steve Soboroff told us. "You've gotta get used to it."


Soboroff said Moore had talked to him about the issue, adding, "he hears about it a lot."


But Soboroff thinks law enforcement is getting unfairly singled out. "Cops are the flavor of the day to criticize right now," he said.

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