SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's governor on Thursday denounced four state troopers who were seen on video without face masks in a coffee shop, saying such behavior was “inexcusable.”
Under an order from Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, people statewide are required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces to slow the mounting spread of the coronavirus.
Many people have been complying but others have refused, saying the order infringes on their rights.
Oregon health officials on Thursday reported a record 375 new confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, an increase of nearly 100 over Wednesday. Officials predict the increases could reach 900 new cases a day in the state.
On Wednesday, the day Brown's order took effect, an Oregon State Police trooper entered the coffee shop in Corvallis and directed an expletive at the governor as he rejected a request by assistant manager Travis Boss to wear a mask, Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The trooper said the mask mandate was a violation of his civil liberties, Boss told the newspaper.
Within moments, three other state troopers entered Allan’s Coffee & Tea shop and also refused a request to wear a face covering, Boss said. Closed-circuit TV images show all four not wearing masks.
Oregon State Police spokesman Capt. Timothy Fox told The Associated Press that one of the four state troopers has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. The names of the troopers were not released.
Boss said he felt compelled to fulfill the troopers' drink orders because they were in uniform, even though he said he had sent other patrons away for not wearing masks, Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Brown said in a statement to AP that the behavior of the troopers was unacceptable.
“It is inexcusable that a few Oregon State Troopers disregarded my face covering requirement yesterday, and ignored a request from a fellow Oregonian to follow the rule," Brown said. “No one is above the law."
Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton offered his apologies via Twitter to people at the coffee shop and the community, calling the conduct “embarrassing and indefensible.”
Violating Brown's face mask order could be a misdemeanor, but she has said she didn't expect police to write tickets.