Aurora police apologize for photo of unmasked officer ordering coffee

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AURORA | Aurora police on Tuesday acknowledged a photo of a local officer ordering coffee without a facial covering, ostensibly skirting widely encouraged — but not yet mandated — calls for people to cover their noses and mouths in public to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Police said department leaders are “currently looking into the situation” to determine if the male officer photographed without a mask was indeed flaunting the tangled web of local, state and national public health orders, according to a statement released via Twitter July 14.

“If he is found to be in violation of any public health order or department policy it will be addressed,” the statement read.

APD officers stood in riot gear in front of the APD headquarters June 27, 2020, at the Aurora Municipal Center. Thousands gathered to protest and pay tribute to Elijah McClain, who died last year after an encounter with three officers from the Aurora Police Department.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Such orders have become a morass in the Aurora region in recent weeks, with the Tri-County Health department expected to move forward with a so-called mask mandate on July 24. While county governments in Adams and Arapahoe Counties eventually supported the impending order, the edict riled conservative Douglas County officials who went as far as to opt out of the local health department altogether.

Gov. Jared Polis has excoriated Coloradans who don’t wear masks in public, but has stopped short of requiring state residents to cover their faces.

Police brass said that Aurora officers “should make all efforts to wear face coverings/masks while working,” though the department currently has a departmental policy that excuses police personnel from wearing masks if they believe a mask “compromises officer safety or negatively impacts the officer’s ability to safely address a situation,” according to a media statement.

Following the dissemination of the recent photo of the unmasked officer, police have reminded public safety workers to wear masks as much as possible.

“We apologize for any unease this incident may have caused the community we serve,” police wrote.

Aurora police received similar criticism for dozens of officers working unmasked at recent protests at Aurora city hall and outside of a north Aurora substation. Many officers later donned respirators as smoke canisters and peppers spray was deployed at a June 27 demonstration and vigil held outside of the Aurora Municipal Center.