Updated June 26, 2020 - 8:28 am
Some police departments in the Las Vegas Valley adjusted face mask policies after Gov. Steve Sisolak required coverings for all Nevadans in public.
After the announcement Wednesday, Sisolak was asked whether this would apply to police forces in the state, and he said the decision is left to the departments’ discretion.
“Some of the sheriffs and police chiefs have opined that there’s a safety issue, and we’re leaving it up to the law enforcement agency to make that determination as relates to their specific job function,” Sisolak said.
The Metropolitan Police Department announced new policies Thursday encouraging all employees to wear face masks while on duty. Face coverings will be required for all officers transporting prisoners and all correctional officers inside jails.
“LVMPD Officers must wear KN95 and N95 masks (when in contact with known COVID-19 individuals), otherwise, Surgical masks and Cloth masks are authorized,” the department said in a statement Thursday evening.
All volunteers in the department and anyone visiting Metro facilities will also be required to wear masks, the statement said.
Metro had tested 353 officers as of Thursday afternoon, resulting in 44 positive cases, according to data reported by the department.
The Henderson Police Department also instituted new policies Thursday, including an expectation that all officers will wear face coverings in public, according to spokeswoman Katrina Farrell.
“In situations where the application or wearing of a face covering poses imminent harm or danger to an officer, employee, or a member of the public, officers will make a decision that is in the best interest of public safety,” Farrell said. “However, when there are no officer safety concerns, all officers are expected to wear face coverings in public.”
For some Southern Nevada agencies, Sisolak’s directive required no changes.
The Nevada Highway Patrol Southern Command required all personnel to wear face coverings while interacting with the public as of April 8, according to trooper Travis Smaka. The Highway Patrol has provided troopers with masks, he said.
North Las Vegas Police Department spokesman Alex Cuevas said Wednesday that the department has mandated all officers wear masks when interacting with the public since March 18.
“We more than likely will stick to the mask policy and the social distancing policy until everything gets safer,” regardless of when the mandate from the governor ends, Cuevas said.
He said if officers are exposed to the virus or are experiencing symptoms, they are required to report it to a supervisor to get tested. He said Chief Pam Ojeda didn’t have any of the safety concerns that Sisolak referenced during Wednesday’s news conference.
“We have no problem with supplying our officers and our civilian staffers with (personal protective equipment),” he said.
Cuevas didn’t have an estimate for the number of department employees who have tested positive for the virus, although he did say he was the first one to get a positive result in March. He said he was gone from work for about two weeks until his symptoms disappeared.
“I think the department handled it pretty well,” he said.