Editorial: A Call to Discipline Unmasked State Troopers

You probably already know about the three Oregon State Troopers that patronized a Corvallis coffee shop without masks on Wednesday. According to the original Oregonian reporting, the barista asked the officers to mask up, and one of the officers declined, saying none of them would.  

The officer was said to then blurt an expletive concerning the governor’s order that everyone mask themselves in public, and spoke of his civil rights. This, of course, puts the barista in an extraordinary position: He is supposed to insist customers mask up, and it’s a State Trooper refusing to do so.  

We believe that all three troopers should be swiftly and seriously disciplined. One of the key features of our democracy is the civilian control of police and military through our elected representatives – a social contract these officers wantonly flouted when they disregarded the governor’s order.  

Of course, we can hear the objections now. But, implicit to arguments for activism and civil disobedience is the acknowledgement that personal sacrifice may be required. A peace officer should know this.  

More generally, we are concerned with increased policing incidents that run counter to what lawmakers and the people that elect them appear to intend. For instance, just hours after the governor signed legislation on Tuesday to curtail tear gassing, police tear gassed protestors in Portland  

In short, we support peace officering that is of the law, but never above it, and these three officers, for however minor their offense may seem, do not seem to understand that with authority comes humility, or at least, that it should.  

As an aside, and as full disclosure, we support the governor’s mask order, but even if we didn’t, we don’t see the order as materially harming anyone. We’ll admit, by now, we all miss exchanging smiles with one another around town, but the order is temporary in nature, and even the current presidential administration’s CDC recommends mask wearing.