It’s safe to say that white America’s general image of police officers has taken a bit of a nosedive. A role that some folks respected more than members of Congress just last year has, in the span of about a month or so, become one that they’re terrified of, if not actively fighting to abolish altogether. And rather than try to regain their past rep, we’ve seen some cops across the country just... lean into being deeply shitty people that just happen to have a badge.
Case in point: Earlier today, OregonLive reported on a video recording that shows a handful of State Police troopers sauntering into a coffee shop, without a mask to be seen—a move that doesn’t only shit on the mandated mask order that Governor Kate Brown passed on the day this recording was shot but also shits all over every academic and public health official that’s been telling us to keep these things on our damn faces for the past four months.
When the store’s assistant manager, Travis Boss, told the troopers that they needed to wear a mask if they wanted to order something, a trooper reportedly offered up this brilliant teardown of the one thing we need to do to keep tens of thousands of more people from losing their lives:
“Governor Brown has no authority to take our civil liberties. We aren’t going to wear masks,” the trooper allegedly said, according to a written statement from Boss provided to the newsroom.
“He said, ‘F—-, Kate Brown,’” Boss recalled.
Three other law enforcement officers entered the business moments later and also refused a request to wear masks, Boss said. Boss said he felt compelled to fulfill their drink orders because they were in uniform, even though he said he had sent other patrons away earlier for not wearing masks.
To put this absolute zinger into context, right now Oregon is in the middle of some record-breaking numbers of coronavirus cases. (Although to be fair, it’s nothing even close to the outbreaks in hotspots like Florida and Arizona, but far worse than, say, New Zealand.) Yesterday, local health authorities reported a new record high of 281 new coronavirus cases recorded in a single day—more than twice the rate that they were seeing in April and May, when the state’s stay-at-home order was in effect. Naturally, these higher numbers come with their own body count that’ll likely only balloon as more and more people get infected.
These troops clearly weren’t worried about the civil liberties of the nearly 200 people the state’s recorded as fatalities of the virus. But they were very worried about their own. It’s a concern we’ve seen rippling across the country for months as an increasing array of louder voices all saying that America, at its core, is about freedom. And dammit, that should include the freedom to infect countless vulnerable populations with an incredibly contagious virus if I want to, because that’s the American way. At least one store security guard who tried to argue with this rationale ended up shot and killed as a result.
Not long after OregonLive published its account of the state troopers, Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton wrote a lengthy Twitter thread calling what these cops did “embarrassing and indefensible,” especially in light of the riot-control tactics Portland police had used against peaceful protestors who, assumedly, were also stepping on their civil liberties.
“Let me be clear, Oregon State Police Troopers are not above the law and this conduct is being immediately addressed,” Hampton added, which, according to the OregonLive article, means one of the troopers was placed on indefinite administrative leave. Hopefully, he appreciates the new freedom he has with all of this new time off.
Correction: The police officers who used harsh tactics against civil rights protesters were Portland city police, not Oregon state police. We regret the error.