CORVALLIS, Ore. — The owners of an Oregon coffee company are responding after Oregon State Police officers refused a request to wear masks after entering one of their shops on Wednesday — an incident that has since been condemned by both Governor Kate Brown and OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton.
The incident was first reported by the Oregonian/OregonLive on Thursday morning after interviewing workers at Allan's Coffee and Tea in Corvallis.
This conduct is embarrassing and indefensible, especially in the wake of thousands of Oregonians taking to the streets each day to rightfully demand police accountability.— Oregon State Police (@ORStatePolice) July 2, 2020
Governor Brown's statewide mandate for use of face coverings in indoor public spaces went into effect on Wednesday. Businesses are largely responsible for enforcing the requirement, under penalty from OSHA for failing to comply.
According to a statement from Allan's owners Robert and Kathryn Morgan, they were prepared to follow the new mandate and had filled employees in on the policy, including signs hung in their locations asking patrons to use face coverings.
"We were aware of the divisive climate during this time and the fact that face coverings have become a politicized issue so we expected that our employees may receive some backlash from customers regarding this new policy," the Morgans said. "We were fully prepared to support our employees. However, we did not expect that within the first hour of the state mandate four uniformed State Police Officers would defy the orders, enter our café without wearing a face mask and refuse requests to wear one."
The Morgans said that one of the officers "used profanity to disparage the Governor," claiming that she could not infringe on his civil liberties. The officer reportedly told employees that they didn't have to worry about complying with the order, because police would not be enforcing it.
After the officer ordered, the Morgans said that at least one other customer stated that they shouldn't have to wear face coverings either.
"The four Oregon State Police Officers put our small business in a terrible position yesterday by openly defying the orders which we as a business are responsible for upholding," the Morgans said.
The Allan's owners said that they fully support the law enforcement community and do not see face coverings as a political or divisive issue. They decided to go public with the incident after Oregon State Police initially seemed to have taken the issue "too lightly."
On Thursday, OSP chief Travis Hampton put out a statement on social media, calling the officers' conduct "embarrassing and indefensible."
"Let me be clear, Oregon State Police Troopers are not above the law and this conduct is being immediately addressed," Hampton said. "As the leader of the Oregon State Police, I would like to offer my apology to the coffee shop employees and the community."
Governor Brown followed up with a statement of her own a few hours later, echoing Hampton's sentiments and saying that they both expect OSP officers to lead by example.
"This virus threatens us all, regardless of our job title. Oregonians are wearing face coverings to protect ourselves, our families and our community," Brown said. "If you want your favorite restaurants and shops to stay open, wear a face covering and practice physical distancing to reduce the spread of the disease."
The Oregonian reported that one of the officers had been placed on administrative leave and the incident is under investigation, according to an OSP spokesman.
"We are saddened that the issue of face coverings has seemed to further divide a community and a state that is already divided and that the backlash from this issue will ultimately fall on the backs of small businesses," the Morgans said. "We hope that Oregon can peacefully comply with the Governor’s mandate and work towards getting our state back to where it was."