Do Carroll County police need to wear masks? That depends on the circumstances and the department.

On May 9, a very ordinary occurrence happened in a very unordinary time: A woman was pulled over in Westminster. In her account of what happened during the traffic stop, she noticed that a Carroll County Sheriff’s Office deputy wasn’t wearing a face mask.

She asked that he put one on for her safety, she said. But he declined.


Heather Jourdain, who works as a certified nursing assistant, was pulled over while driving with her 6-month-old son in the back seat. When the deputy approached her car the first time for her license and registration, he identified himself and his reason for pulling her over, then she asked if he could wear a mask and he refused. When he returned with her license and registration, she again asked if he could put one on and, again, he declined.

She added that the deputy didn’t keep his distance and wasn’t wearing gloves as he handled her registration and license. She decided to record video of the interaction.


Jourdain was concerned because of the risk that close personal communication poses for contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Due to her job, Jourdain treats everyone as if they have COVID-19 so she can keep the patients she works with safe.

According to Jourdain, when another deputy arrived on the scene to help, that deputy put on a mask before approaching the passenger side of Jourdain’s vehicle.

The Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in Carroll have developed their own approaches to mitigating the virus’ spread, with some variations.

The Sheriff’s Office has minimized traffic stops by telling deputies to be selective in their traffic enforcement in the interest of reducing the risk of exposure to themselves and citizens, according to Capt. David Stem of the Sheriff’s Office.

“We are still making traffic stops, we’ve just asked deputies to be cognizant of the traffic stops — we’ve asked them to really focus on serious violations,” Stem said.

Stem said he wasn’t aware of any specific deputies who refused to put on a mask but was aware that they had received some emails from residents with concerns that deputies hadn’t practiced social distancing or haven’t worn protective equipment in times when the residents believed they should have.

“This is a learning experience for us, much like it is for the public. This is all new for us as well, so we have looked at a couple different incidences where, where we’ve gotten some feedback from the public,” Stem said.

During traffic stops, the Sheriff’s Office does advise — but not require — that deputies wear a mask when approaching a vehicle.

“What we are asking deputies to do is to still practice good officer safety skills, but if you are going to approach a car, have a mask on,” Stem said.

Stem added that there are times when law enforcement officers might not have time to put on a mask if they need to jump out of the car quickly for a service call or traffic stop — but, generally, they are asked to wear a mask.

Stem also added that on Wednesday they had received some guidance from Maryland State Police on how to do some things better on traffic stops, which is constantly changing.

“Much like at the very beginning of this pandemic, things that we did change every day and we still continue to change things and evolve,” Stem said. “What we did three days ago we may not necessarily do three days from now. Traffic stops is something that we as an agency, and really law enforcement in general, has grappled with, ‘How do we deal with traffic stops?’ because they do involve an officer getting into somebody’s intimate space — not only because they have to interact with an operator of a vehicle, but because there’s an officer safety issue involved in that, too.


"We’re trained a certain way to approach a vehicle a certain way, to interact with a driver a certain way, to watch drivers’ movements or passengers’ movements a certain way. So, to try and rewire the training on what those officers have received over the course of their career is a time-consuming process.”

Other local police departments have similar policies for officers wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to spokesperson Elena Russo, Maryland State Police is provided guidelines to help mitigate occupational exposure to COVID-19 to include the use of social distancing and PPE on traffic stops or any calls for service.

“Troopers are provided protective masks while working with incidents involving the public. State police are also issued protective eye wear to don during traffic stops and other interactions with the public,” Russo said. “When working with individuals who are symptomatic for COVID-19, troopers are to wear the full PPE, which consists of a full body suit, nitrile gloves, [polyvinyl chloride] boots, N-95 mask or Avon C50 Millennium mask, and protective eyewear. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer is also provided to all sworn personnel.”

Russo added: “During prisoner transports, troopers are to practice focused isolation, placing a surgical mask on all prisoners. If the prisoner is unable to wear the mask, it is recommended the trooper wear the N-95 mask with safety glasses. In addition, state police are screening calls for signs of COVID-19, have expanded the use of the telephone reporting system for minor crimes and are encouraging troopers to to contact victims/witnesses/suspects outside, when possible.”

For the Sykesville Police Department, wearing face masks started as a recommendation and developed into being mandatory any time an officer responds to a call, or enters a residence or a business, according to Chief Michael Spaulding.

The department has also tried to minimize traffic stops unless it’s something serious and life-threatening. But if a Sykesville police officer does make a traffic stop, they are required to wear a mask and gloves, particularly if they have to handle personal items of the occupants of the vehicle.

According to Manchester police Chief John Hess, he gives a lot of “latitude” to his officers regarding when to and when not to wear a mask, though he said they are also following rules set by Gov. Larry Hogan.

“We are reserving the N95 mask for scenes or incidents where exposure could be high. Most times, the officers are wearing cloth mask or surgical mask when directly engaging the public and or entering businesses,” Hess said in an email. “Officers are wearing gloves and mask during traffic stops.”

According to Maj. Pete D’Antuono, deputy chief of police for the Westminster Police Department, Westminster officers must wear a mask when entering a retail business and are encouraged to wear masks when they enter a residence. They are not required to wear a face mask when they conduct a traffic stop, though that is up to their discretion.

Mount Airy Police Department officers are equipped with masks and gloves, and wear the proper coverings in certain locations. However, according to Chief Douglas Reitz, they must wear an N95 mask when dealing with a subject who is known to be infected with COVID-19.

Like other police departments, Mount Airy isn’t making many traffic stops, unless there some kind of emergency, in an effort to try to minimize contact.


The Taneytown and Hampstead police departments did not respond to requests for comment.

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