Gone Forever? Superior Police, Fire Chiefs Evolve Mask Policies For Departments

While Superior police officers will wear masks when wanted by the public, masks may be the future for Superior firefighters under certain circumstances.

SUPERIOR, Wis. – Superior’s police and fire chiefs are thankful to see the faces again of their men and women in uniform. But masks aren’t completely leaving while on the job in the community, as FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reports.

The city of Superior and its employees are no longer mandated to wear a mask. But Mayor Jim Paine is letting the chiefs of police and fire manage their own policies as first responders in close contact with people out in neighborhoods every day.

For the police department, it’s pretty much mask free with some courteous exceptions.

But for the fire department, the chief believes mask wearing may become the norm under certain circumstances.

“We have great masks, we provide everybody with two masks we designed ourselves and we’re pretty proud of them,” said Scott Gordon, fire chief for Superior.

The Superior Fire Department is still stocked with plenty of self-designed masks and heavy duty N95’s one year since the pandemic hit.  And Chief Gordon says mask wearing for most emergency calls will continue with no end date in sight because — in part — firefighters used the least amount of sick days last year in the history of the department.

“It’s easy to come to the conclusion the reason we had so few sick days is because we made everybody wear a mask every time they went into contact with somebody else,” Gordon said.

The fire department mask policy includes all firefighters wearing a mask when entering a business that requires them, when rendering care while on emergency calls and when entering a residence.

But firefighters do not need to wear masks at the fire station or in route to calls.

Chief Gordon says the shift to wear masks beyond the pandemic can be compared to the early 90s when firefighters were first required to wear rubber gloves on medical calls.

“Now people don’t question it. It’s quite possible that, that’s what masks become,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile for Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander, the masks are off for his department unless a business or resident wants otherwise.

“Certain people in the public have different conditions, vulnerabilities. So anytime a community member asks us to wear a mask, we would expect our officers to do that and we will comply,” Alexander said.

But the real excitement for him is getting back to true community policing with face-to-face engagements.

“Our ability to get to gatherings that people are congregating and talk to people and engage in discussion about policing — and how we can make neighborhood and different areas better — obviously didn’t happen much in the past year,” Alexander said.

And the maskless policing goes beyond that. Alexander believes seeing faces again will help officers de-escalate tense calls easier.

“A lot of the way we communicate is through nonverbal facial expressions and so on, and I do think not wearing a mask will hopefully allow that to help out. You can’t see a smile sometimes with the mask on, so a friendly greeting with an officer is a little different when their wearing a mask versus not,” Alexander said.

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