A maskless Bloomington police officer entered a residence while responding to a trespassing call the night of Jan. 14, in another filmed instance of officers defying the county mask mandate amid increasing COVID-19 community spread.
Local activist Patrick Saling, 22, filmed Officer Andrew Dawson inside a home on South Washington Street. Video obtained by the Indiana Daily Student shows Dawson through a window in uniform and without a mask. His identity was confirmed in the video by Sgt. Dustin Kruse.
“We’re just trying to figure things out, once things cool down we’ll get his mask on, OK?” Kruse said to Saling as they talked outside of the house.
“He had time to go and hide from me,” Saling replied. “Tell your friend to put his mask on in there!”
Saling alleged Dawson flashed his flashlight at them, ignored their gesture to put on a mask and tried to hide out of sight from the camera. They also said BPD’s explanation for why Dawson was not wearing a mask changed over the course of the night.
“They were lying to me,” Saling alleged. “First, the story was that he didn’t have time to put it on, now it’s that he had a broken mask.”
Saling further alleged that Dawson could only show proof of a broken mask after rummaging around in his squad car, which they believe is where he found another used medical mask or possibly broke one, they said. These allegations were not captured in any video footage.
Dawson eventually put on a black cloth mask, and all of the other responding officers wore their masks the entire time at the scene, Saling said.
No arrests were made. It remains unclear why the only officer without a mask on was inside the home. The property owner could not be reached for comment.
The IDS reported another incident in August in which Saling filmed a maskless officer attempting to administer a sobriety test to a man sitting next to him in a police car. When the man attempted the test incorrectly, the officer demonstrated by blowing air toward the man’s face. Another video from the same night shows a BPD officer saying he doesn’t wear masks because he does not like them.
Masks reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which travels through respiratory droplets in the air from person to person. Monroe County’s mandate requires residents to wear masks at all times unless they are at home or outside and able to maintain six feet of distance from others. As of the afternoon of Jan. 27, a total of 427,215 Americans have died from COVID-19. Among the death toll are 119 Monroe County residents.
Bloomington Police Capt. Ryan Pedigo did not comment on the Jan. 14 incident and directed the IDS to file a public records request. A police report from the request did not include additional information about why the officer was not wearing a mask.
In response to another recording of officers not wearing masks in August, Pedigo defended BPD against criticism about officers not following the mask mandate. He told the IDS officers do not have to wear masks while outside, alone inside their patrol vehicles or when they needed to “take quick action.”
He also suggested Saling may have violated a state law that prohibits interfering with law enforcement’s work when they confronted BPD officers. Saling has not been charged for any violation of this law.
“They are supposed to be enforcers of the rules,” Saling said. “It’s violence not to wear a mask.”
This story was updated 10:33 a.m. Jan. 28 to reflect information from a police report, which confirmed no one was arrested.