Report: Seattle police illegally ignored COVID mask rules

SEATTLE — A civilian oversight board says some Seattle police officers routinely — and illegally — ignored state and city mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and refused to obey direct orders from the chief to comply.

The Seattle Times reports that a recently released review by the Office of Inspector General exposed a “serious cultural issue” within the department.

The report states the department was fined $17,500 last year after receiving two notices of “serious violations” of the Washington Administrative Code over officers’ refusal to comply with the mandates after inspections by the state Department of Labor and Industries.

The report noted it was difficult for command staff to demand officers comply with the regulations because some captains and assistant chiefs didn’t mask up, either.

L&I concluded the police department “did not provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, serious injury or death.”

The department’s OIG, one of three civilian-run police oversight agencies, said the police chief gave officers “clear direction” and “explicit orders” about mask-wearing as early as March 2020 — followed by a string of increasingly stern reminders.

Interim Chief Adrian Diaz then issued a direct order in January 2021 that all officers comply with the city’s mask policy, saying any violation would be referred to internal affairs.

“The emails demonstrate that command staff and supervisors struggled to gain widespread compliance with orders pertaining to masking,” the OIG report issued on April 15 said.

That same month, a captain emailed that he was “just stunned at the noncompliance.”

No officer was ever disciplined for refusing to wearing a mask, according to the report and a statement from the Office of Police Accountability. Inspector General Lisa Judge concluded this decision set a questionable precedent.

A statement issued Tuesday by SPD did not address the report’s specifics.

“The Department acknowledges the findings of this report and the concerns it states,” the statement said.

More in News

Crews fighting wildfire south of Port Angeles

Crews from Clallam County Emergency Management, Clallam County Fire… Continue reading

State Senate hopefuls differ on pathways

Chapman, Kelbon make case for 24th District

EYE ON THE PENINSULA: Clallam continues discussion around mill closure

Meetings across Clallam and Jefferson counties

A set of electric vehicle charging stations stand ready for public use in the parking lot of the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Electric vehicle charging stations now at courthouse

The Clallam County Parks, Fair and Facilities Department has… Continue reading

Recall hearing set for four Port Angeles City Council members

Superior Court to determine if recall will proceed to ballot

Olympic Connect aims to improve health care outcomes

Program director discusses future plans for community care hub

Traffic restored at Chicken Coop Creek

The state Department of Transportation has restored traffic to the… Continue reading

Lake Crescent road work slated next week

Maintenance crews from the state Department of Transportation will… Continue reading

Twyla and Doug Falsteisek, who split their time between Port Angeles and Sun City West, Ariz., take a break from their bike ride on the patio of the Dungeness River Nature Center along the Dungeness River in Sequim on Wednesday. The couple took advantage of summer weather for an excursion on the Olympic Discovery Trail. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Taking a break

Twyla and Doug Falsteisek, who split their time between Port Angeles and… Continue reading

The QFC grocery store and pharmacy in Sequim is one of three North Olympic Peninsula groceries scheduled for divestment by The Kroger Co. under terms of a merger between Kroger and Albertsons Companies, Inc. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Three QFC locations could be part of sale

Kroger, Albertsons release statewide list

Port of Port Townsend commissioners approve Short’s Farm plan

‘Master blueprint’ provides details on how to organize land

Lake Sutherland Management Distric t extends 10 more years

Residents of Lake Sutherland Management District 2 voted to… Continue reading