Letter to the Editor

Law enforcement face masks

Monday, August 10, 2020

Two weeks ago, my family was driving through Iowa en route to Omaha, Nebraska, from Nisswa, Minnesota. We were pulled over by Officer Jeremy Hilt of the Iowa State Patrol in Ashton, Iowa.

Officer Hilt was not wearing a face mask. He did not stay anywhere near 6 feet away when talking to us. This is a man who interacts with multiple members of the public daily, making him vulnerable to the coronavirus every day. His careless actions put me and my family at potentially fatal risk.

I called the Iowa State Patrol with my concerns. Sgt. Chase Hesse told me officers were not required to wear masks. I believe this does not mean they shouldn't wear masks for the safety of the general public, especially when officers blatantly ignore social distancing guidelines.

Because we wanted to know if Officer Hilt became ill after this incident, thereby increasing the likelihood he had infected us, my husband and I have called the Iowa State Patrol District No. 6 in Spencer regularly to check on the health of Officer Hilt.

Were we exceeding the speed limit? Yes. Does that warrant jeopardizing our lives? No.

My views are not alone.

According to Time Magazine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization, say "people should wear fabric face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 even if they are healthy."

"By not wearing face masks, police officers who are asymptomatic increase the risk of spreading the virus."

Furthermore, the Iowa Department of Public Health recommends, social distancing and wearing a face mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19. I have reported this incident to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

This incident caused considerable trauma to our family. My husband, who has health concerns, was terrified that the officer's sloppy behavior could make him sick. We called all our doctors to get advice on how to handle this unfortunate, unnecessary situation.

We are not suggesting police officers shouldn't do their jobs. We are not suggesting defunding the police. But officers need to perform their duties safely, for the public health as well as their own.

—Linda Saltzman, Omaha, Nebraska