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Amid Covid, some Ontario police officers aren’t wearing masks on the job

Tommy Elizondo of the Ontario Police Department, speaks with a woman from Idaho in an effort to recover a stolen vehicle. (Kezia Setyawan/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO - Despite Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mask mandate and rapid Covid spread in Malheur County, some officers in the Ontario Police Department aren’t wearing face coverings at all times.

Police Chief Steven Romero reasons that “police work is based on communications,” and problems arise when people or fellow officers can’t understand what the officer is saying through a mask. For example, he said, when the department pursued three murder suspects a few weeks ago, officers had to communicate over the radio systems, which “are already not the best.”

“Imagine having to try to communicate to your dispatcher, your fellow law enforcement officers, or anyone else through a mask during . . .