That was the requirement set out in an Aug. 11 email to Sheriff Billy Woods of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
The mandate came when the city of Ocala, Florida, introduced a mandatory mask mandate ordinance in place in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ocala City Council adopted an emergency ordinance last week, which required masks inside companies. Although the city mayor vetoed the ordinance on Monday, the city council violated the veto on Wednesday.
“Now the regulation is exempting the authorities and leaving the decision to the figurative heads,” Woods explained in the email, received by CNN. “So for us, my order will stand as when you are on duty / working as my employee and representing my office ̵
Woods then listed some exceptions when masks requires to be worn: in court, schools, hospitals and when he is on patrol and responding to a nursing home or involving a “high risk elderly individual,” he said in the email.
And the order does not only extend to those on the payroll – anyone who enters a sheriff’s office, either the head office or a district, will be asked to remove their mask, Woods wrote. If they do not, they will be asked to leave.
His reasoning? Clear communication, he said in the email.
“In light of the current events regarding the feeling and / or hatred of law enforcement in our country today, this is done to ensure that there is clear communication and to identify all persons entering a lobby,” he wrote.
The email does not specifically list why deputies should not wear masks, but Woods writes that he “can already hear the whining” – suggesting that his decision may not be a popular decision.
“In fact, the amount of professionals who give the reason why we should, I can find exactly the same amount of professionals who say why we should not do it,” Woods writes. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, the operations of this office have not changed and no wearing of masks has been introduced. With only 900 employees, our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we approach the issue is working methods.”
Woods signs the email with “Be safe!”
Nationally, police officers have been seen not wearing masks and show a variety of reasons why – although health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise face coatings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
CNN’s Tina Burnside contributed to this report.