Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has decided not to fire the state troopers caught on camera refusing to comply with her order to wear face masks. The governor made face coverings a requirement in public places starting on Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a viral video shows four police officers mocking the order and walking into a coffee shop with no masks on. Brown sat down with three of these officers to sort it out, as she revealed later on Facebook.
Surveillance footage from a coffee shop in Corvallis, Oregon went viral this week, showing four cops pointedly refusing to follow the state's new face mask mandate, which went into effect that day. When asked why they were not wearing masks, one of the police reportedly said, "f— Kate Brown" to the cafe's staff. That officer was placed on administrative leave, and the other three are under investigation, but Brown met with them on Friday. In a Facebook post, she explained that she is "focused on saving lives not firing people."
"In the world of social media, it's easy to condemn someone when they make a mistake and keep scrolling by. But you can judge a person's character by whether they own up and make things right," Brown wrote. "We talked about kids, our families, and the importance of setting a good example. They took responsibility and expressed real regret for their actions. And they pledged to do better."
"The officers and I agreed today that face coverings save lives. So you'll see them – and me – wearing a face-covering each and every day until we beat this virus," Brown concluded. Brown's post showed herself and the three officers sitting outside around a picnic table, all wearing face masks. They were in a lush garden setting, with the officers in full uniforms. In the video from Corvallis, they were dressed more casually. Commenters argued that these officers still needed to face consequences for making the coffee shop staff feel so unsafe.
The police not only came in and got coffee without masks — they sat down inside and took their time drinking their beverages there. The shop's assistant manager said that they were not shy about the fact that they saw masks as a political issue, saying: "Governor Brown has no authority to take our civil liberties. We aren't going to wear masks."
The science around face masks is clear — they reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus by a huge percentage, even makeshift cloth masks. Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Street that new findings show masks to be even more effective than previously believed. He also said mask shortages are no longer an imminent problem in the U.S., meaning that there is no reason everyone cannot obtain them.
The "civil liberties" argument has been widely condemned as well. Laws prevent people from going out in public without clothes on, and businesses are within their rights to insist that customers wear shirts and shoes in order to come inside. Face masks are no different, and they do not impede breathing for most people, even asthmatics. Last month, Syracuse University law professor Doron Dorfmann told Poynter that the case for medical exemptions from face masks is weak at best.