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Richmond man questions why masks aren't mandatory for RCMP during road checks

Last Updated Jul 12, 2020 at 1:03 am PST

FILE - Packages of face masks on April 29, 2020. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

There is no public health order in B.C. mandating masks, they are recommended by health officials in some situations

The officer in charge of B.C. RCMP Traffic Services says personal protective equipment is not mandatory.

RICHMOND (CityNews) — After a road check earlier this month, a Richmond man is wondering why police aren’t required to wear masks when talking to drivers they pull over.

Shawn Jahromi says he encountered a road block after leaving Iona Beach and was surprised that the officer who came to his car window wasn’t wearing a mask.

He says the officer didn’t seem to take his request for physical distance seriously.

“I asked him politely if he could step back from the window and again he didn’t move, and his approach was very dismissive. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I don’t have COVID,'” Jahromi says, adding he worries about the sheer volume of people police come into contact with.

“You’re stopping hundreds of cars and one of the individuals in one of these cars might have [COVID-19], even if you tested negative in the morning you could have contracted it from one of these cars.”

Still, he says he felt compelled to roll down his window, and he thinks masks should be required for officers doing road checks.

The officer in charge of B.C. RCMP Traffic Services points out personal protective equipment is not mandatory.

“What we’ve asked our officers to do is conduct a risk assessment, based on the totality of the circumstances in front of them, and make sure that they are making choices that will keep themselves and the public as safe as possible,” says Supt. Holly Turton.

“We are frequently assessing the direction provided by the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada, and we are adjusting our recommendations and policies accordingly.”

Turton says officers have been told to conduct risk assessments, and to consider alternative ways of conducting checks – like doing it from the passenger side if no one is there. They also try to reduce the handling of documents where possible.

B.C.’s top doctor has not issued a public health order mandating masks.

“Wearing a cloth mask or face covering is a matter of personal choice. It is another tool you can choose, particularly when maintaining that important safe distance can be a challenge,” Dr. Bonnie Henry wrote in a statement addressing the use of masks as part of COVID-19 prevention.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends masks but does say they should be required.

“Wearing a homemade non-medical mask/facial covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings, such as stores, shopping areas, public transportation,” the website says.

With files from Lisa Steacy