Tehama County sheriff’s deputies will more often than not be seen conducting their duties without wearing a COVID-19 protection mask per policy set by Sheriff Dave Hencratt in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Guidance for the Use of Face Covering” issued June 18.

Hencratt’s policy states it was enacted with the purpose of “invoking the ability for an exemption from wearing a Face Covering/Mask as described on page two of the State’s Guidance Document.”

Corning Police Chief Jeremiah Fears said a temporary policy for his department concerning the wearing of face masks/coverings in light of COVID-19 and the Governor’s guidance, is under review.

“The Tehama County Sheriff’s Office declares that wearing a Face Covering/Mask while on duty is an issue of Officer Safety and may jeopardize the physical safety of its Sheriff’s Deputies,” states Hencratt’s policy. “Nothing in this policy shall override an employees’ common sense on when and how to don and wear Face Coverings/Masks; especially in any circumstance in which an employee feels a threat of injury or death from another human being perceived as an assailant.”

In a listing of reasons for the exemption, Hencratt states the need for command presence, which the mask would impede; sensory limitations, reducing smell and taste; eye obstruction, masks causing fogging of eye wear; the obstruction of breathing in an emergency situation; and finally, mental health, the long-term use of a mask causing anxiety and claustrophobic reactions.

“The Tehama County Sheriff recognizes that wearing a Face Covering/Mask, if constructed from proper materials, fitted properly, and worn properly, may mitigate exposure or spread of an airborne pathogen. Nothing in this policy shall prevent any Deputy or any other employee from wearing a Face Covering/Mask, should the Deputy or employee choose,” reads the policy.

Hencratt said he felt the policy was the “right thing to do.”

“It is about protecting the department’s people and providing necessary direction. The Governor’s guidance dictates that we can provide exemptions for safety reasons and that is what we did,” he added.

Hencratt explained if someone from his office goes into a business or elsewhere that dictates the wearing of a face mask then that person will wear one, unless otherwise the circumstances require otherwise.

“The courts, in addition to the Governor’s guidance document, issued a court order making it a misdemeanor violation to not wear a face mask in the courthouse. Our temporary policy on face coverings/masks applies to the courthouse as well, again, it an issue of deputy and officer safety,” he said. 

“If a court deputy wants to wear a mask, that’s fine, it is up to him or her. Our policy is posted at the courthouse screening station for all to see. Except for a couple of people questioning why our deputies are wearing a mask in the court, it has pretty much been a smooth transition.”

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