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Cleveland police officer allegedly claims to be exempt from wearing a mask

Posted at 4:04 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 18:07:40-04

CLEVELAND — A traffic stop by a Cleveland Police officer last Tuesday is now raising questions about who, if anyone, is exempt from wearing a mask when coming into close contact with others.

“Police abusing their positions of power,” Sharon Grubiss said. “It just didn’t sit well with me.”

Grubiss admitted she was speeding when she was pulled over by a CPD officer on Lorain Avenue last week.

“I was trying to get around a gentleman and may or may not have been going a little fast down the street,” Grubiss said. “So he pulled me over and gave me a ticket.”

She isn’t contesting that citation, but she is expressing her confusion over the officer’s answer when she asked him to put on a mask after approaching her window.

“So I asked him why didn’t he have a mask on as he was standing this close to me, like in my car, without one,” Grubiss said.

Grubiss said the officer who pulled her over claimed he was excused from wearing a face covering.

“I was kind of like nervous. Like what if he came into contact with somebody that day,” Grubiss said. “And he clearly stated that he was exempt, that all police officers were exempt from wearing masks.”

However, Cleveland police policy states otherwise.

In two notices issued by Chief Calvin Williams in May, members of the Cleveland Division of Police were ordered to operate under the assumption that everyone has tested positive for COVID-19. Nowhere in the two separate memos does it state that officers are free from the state, city or county mask mandates.

“He lied right to my face. He said he’s exempt and Cleveland Police officers are exempt,” Grubiss said. “If he’s pulling other people over like me, what if they’re not? What if they’re sick and didn’t know? What if I was sick and didn’t know?”

Grubiss said she contacted CPD multiple times about the stop and heard back several days later.

“The police did get back to me and they did say that they are supposed to wear their masks when they are coming in close proximity to someone, especially someone they’re giving a citation to,” Grubiss said.

News 5 has requested body camera footage of the traffic stop as well as more information about whether CPD will launch an internal affairs investigation. We have yet to hear back.

The full memos issued by Chief Williams are below:

“Members are reminded of the importance of donning PPE when coming into contact with anyone. Members should continue to operate under the assumption that everyone is positive with COVID-19 and are reminded of the importance of setting a good example. Modeling appropriate behavior (social distancing, wearing a face mask) is crucial for officer and public safety and improves legitimacy and trust.

Members shall wear a PPE mask when entering into any facility, public or private. This includes, but not limited to, all hospitals, places of business, city buildings, county buildings and personal residences.

Division members are permitted to wear a cloth face mask on-duty to prevent community spread of COVID-19. Members who elect to wear a cloth face covering shall wear it over their N95 face mask when dealing with the public. To ensure uniformity, members may wear a plain navy blue or black cloth mask or a mask with a Cleveland sports team logo – Indians, Browns, or Cavaliers. No other cloth masks are approved for on-duty wear.

Supervisors shall ensure compliance with this directive.”