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Governor slams state troopers seen refusing to wear masks: 'Absolutely unacceptable'

ABC News logo ABC News 7/3/2020
Kate Brown wearing glasses and a blue shirt: Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Feb. 22, 2019. © Shannon Finney/Getty Images, File Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Feb. 22, 2019.

Oregon officials came out swinging at a group of state troopers caught on camera refusing to wear masks at a local coffee shop in Corvallis despite a statewide mandate.

Surveillance video shared with local outlet The Oregonian shows what appears to be four state troopers enter a coffee shop, all without face coverings, on July 1. All employees behind the counter can be seen wearing masks.

The store's assistant manager told the local paper he informed the first trooper who arrived that masks were required, but the officer allegedly refused and went on to blast the governor's mask mandate. The Oregonian reports that one unnamed trooper has been placed on administrative leave as a result of the incident, citing a statement from Oregon State Police spokesperson Timothy Fox. The agency did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday.

MORE: 89% of Americans wear masks in public as the coronavirus pandemic persists: POLL

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide mask mandate for all public indoor places on July 1 as part of an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus as much of the U.S. is experiencing concerning new jumps in cases.

Oregon health officials reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Brown responded to the incident involving the troopers directly after the surveillance video from the shop, Allan's Coffee and Tea, went viral.

"It is inexcusable that a few Oregon State Troopers disregarded my face covering requirement yesterday, and ignored a request from a fellow Oregonian to follow the rule," Brown said in a statement Thursday. "Oregon State Police Superintendent Hampton and I agree that their actions and behaviors were absolutely unacceptable."

"Let me crystal clear: No one is above the law," she added. "Superintendent Hampton and I expect the Oregon State Police to lead by example."

Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton added in a separate statement that the police officer's conduct is "embarrassing and indefensible, especially in the wake of thousands of Oregonians taking to the streets each day to rightfully demand police accountability."

"Like any police misconduct, the actions of a few bring discredit to the scores of dedicated officers that do not believe they are above the law they are sworn to uphold," Hampton added.

Hampton pledged that their conduct "is being immediately addressed" and personally apologized "to the coffee shop employees and the community."

MORE: Masks are a flashpoint amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what science says about them.

Allan's Coffee Shop did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Friday, but shared in a post on Twitter that they are "thankful for all of the support we have received from our community."

"This was definitely not something we could have anticipated," the tweet added. "Our amazing team handled the conflict in a calm and professional manner, and we could not be more proud."

The incident in Oregon highlights the struggle many local businesses have encountered while attempting to enforce government mandates on face coverings.

Despite the global health crisis raging and health officials urging the use of face masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19, wearing masks has become embroiled in a culture war of sorts in the U.S.


Video: Do you think employees should be held to the actions they take on social media outside of the office? (ABC 13 Houston)

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