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Northeast Ohio residents concerned over police mask-wearing policy

Police face mask
Posted at 11:12 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 23:16:02-05

EASTLAKE, Ohio — Debra Kendera of Eastlake said she called police to her home to give her daughter some advice on Nov. 19, but said she was appalled when the officers walked into her living room and refused to wear masks.

Kendera, who is a healthcare worker, said the officers told her they left their masks in their police cruiser and when she offered them brand new masks in sealed packages, they refused and told her Ohio's current mask mandate doesn't require them to wear a mask while on the job.

Kendera believes Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine needs to tighten the current mandate and require masks for all Ohio safety workers unless they're involved in a potentially dangerous, violent or life threatening call.

“I work in the medical field, I wear a mask and a shield so I can protect people. I said please would you wear a mask, you’re in my home, but he said no," Kendera said. “And I said 'if you refuse to wear a mask while you’re in my home, I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.' I was very disappointed and ashamed, they’re coming into my home, my home, refusing to wear a mask. I have a family member that has stage four cancer that I’m caring for and every mask matters.”

Valerie Ramsier contacted News 5 about a similar experience after she was pulled over by North Ridgeville police for a traffic violation.

Ramsier said she's a critical care nurse who is in contact with COVID-19 patients and believes officers should be required to wear masks unless they're involved with a dire emergency.

“The cop came up to my window and started talking to me without a mask, and I find that ironic because they’re here to protect and serve," Ramsier said. "So I called police headquarters and they said that they’re not required to wear a mask because it impairs their vision. So then I asked him how is that possible, because I work in healthcare and I have to wear one 12 hours a day and my vision is not impaired. The fact that I had put my mask on, I feel that he should have that same respect for me."

News 5 contacted both North Ridgeville and Eastlake police departments, and both quickly responded to our story and said they are simply following the governor's mask mandate, which gives safety workers an exemption.

Eastlake Police Chief Larry Reik told News 5 his police department provides masks and personal protective equipment to all officers and it's up to the officers discretion to wear a mask, unless they're involved with someone who has been confirmed with the virus.

Reik said he talks with the Eastlake mayor about the city policy daily and said he'll revisit that policy with him in the coming days.

Reik said if a resident specifically requests officers come to the scene wearing mask on a non-emergency call, his officers will comply.

“If they know we’re going into a known infection area and if they have the opportunity to wear a mask, they should," Reik said. If they want to wear a mask they can. Our mayor expects me to follow what the governor says.”

Reik said he understand how Kendera feels about his police department's mask policy.

“It might not have been the accommodations she wanted, but she was within her right to ask us to leave,” Reik said. “I totally understand where she’s coming from and if she would have made some other stipulations and the officers would have barged in with this non-emergency situation, I think we would have had a different conversation.”

Still, Kendera believes Ohio's mask mandate needs to be amended, especially as COVID-19 cases spike statewide.

“Why should the police officers be exempt, they’re coming into our homes, it’s a danger to us, we call them to help us," Kendera said. "They’re bringing danger to us because they could have COVID.

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