Tragically, a third Palm Beach County deputy has died of Covid. Here in Marion County, Sheriff, Billy Woods continues to refuse to reverse his order requiring that Marion County deputies do not wear masks in public. At the same time Woods ordered that all members of the public must remove their masks when entering the Marion County Sheriff’s station. After a national outcry and county backlash, the sheriff backed off on the “no masks” rule in the station, but only on that rule, his deputies cannot wear masks in public. The Sheriff has not explained the reason for his backtrack, leaving one to wonder, did he backtrack for public safety reasons or was it over politics?
If Woods made a political decision, one that effects all county residents equally, Woods should explain how politics has a place in his law enforcement activities.
If he reversed his position on “no masks” in his office over public safety issues, then he should explain why he hasn’t reversed his decision on mask-less deputies in public. His deputies interact with the public on a daily basis and the citizens of Marion County Florida have a right to know why Sheriff Billy Woods has chosen to ignore public safety and put his deputies and the public’s lives at risk.
You can look around the county and see the majority of citizens in Marion County are wearing masks. They make their own decisions about interacting with members of the public who are not wearing masks. This is a choice they do not have when they are approached by a deputy, in this situation they cannot just walk away, a citizen might find it difficult to ask a deputy to remain 6 feet away, even if they have committed no crime.
Furthermore, some of Billy Wood’s deputies may actually want to wear a mask, depending on the situation. Imagine one is forced to interact with a person they know has Covid. Would Billy Woods really not want them to wear a mask in this situation? Would the deputy not want to wear a mask in this situation?
Billy Woods knows his deputies have a good chance of interacting with people who don’t know they have Covid. What if the deputy has an older or sick parent at home? What if a member of their family has a preexisting condition? What if their wife or friend has asthma? There are an endless number of scenarios which can end with the death of a loved one. Tragically, the Deputy in Palm Beach left a son behind. Even if Sheriff Woods doesn’t believe masks are important, its obvious most of the county does.
It should be clear by now to Sheriff Billy Woods that the men and women in his office are not immune to Covid. The time is long past due that he change his policy to one that protects both the public and his deputies. That is his duty as Sheriff.
A situation this serious should not need to be explained to a person who holds the responsibility of County Sheriff.
Peter G Cane
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