Twitter has been more lively than usual over the past few days after a Seattle nurse’s rant went viral. She describes an encounter with a police officer in the emergency room, where she repeatedly asked the officer to wear a mask to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The officer blatantly refused to comply with her request, putting himself and everyone else in the facility at risk.
Thanks to social media, local authorities say they are aware of the incident and are in the process of investigating the officer’s behavior.
A Viral Encounter
The ER nurse, who uses the Twitter handle “Casual Weekend Mom”, turned to social media to recount her experiences on the floor. She says she was working in the hospital when the Seattle police officer came in to get a statement from an assault patient. She identified the officer as Eric Whitehead and wrote that he “blatantly refused to put a mask on while standing in a high-traffic hallway” while there were patients with COVID-19 nearby.
As she writes online, “Multiple nurses handed him masks. When I saw he threw them away, I asked if there was a problem. Whitehead put his hand in my face and said ‘Miss, I’m here to do my job and you interrupting me is keeping me from that. If you need to have a conversation about masks it can wait.’”
During the incident, she claims the officer wasn’t responding to a crime, he was simply standing in the hallway. There were also multiple officers nearby, and no one bothered to say anything or intervene.
The nurse responded with, “There is no conversation, I just need you to wear a mask. You’re putting patients and staff at risk by refusing.”
She goes on to say the officer ignored her requests, so she reported him to her charge nurse. Officer Whitehead “condescendingly refused her too,” she added on Twitter. He then finally put his mask on but said he would take it off while in the patient’s room.
At the end of her rant, she wrote, “This officer came into a hotbed of an infectious disease pandemic, deliberately violated not only hospital policy, but state mandated public health actions and common human decency and spoke to frontline workers like we were garbage. There was no accountability from his peers.”
Searching for Accountability
Soon after the nurse posted to Twitter, the rant went viral. It quickly caught the eye of the Seattle Police Department, which confirmed that the matter was under investigation by the department’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA).
“It has been brought to our attention through social media that an officer was seen not wearing a mask. The behavior outlined in last night’s post is unacceptable and not what we expect of our Department members,” the department said in a statement on Sunday.
Officials added that all officers have been directed to follow the latest guidelines from the CDC, which includes wearing masks in indoor settings, especially when near infectious patients.
“We know the profound impacts that COVID has created for our community. We will hold our personnel accountable for actions that violate policy and the trust of the community we serve,” the Seattle police added. Both the officer and the nurses involved have been contacted for additional information.
In addition to holding the officer accountable for his actions, the nurse wasn’t afraid to criticize the police as a whole, writing the “audacity, arrogance [and] self-importance assumed by police is disgusting.”
“I’ve spent 12 hrs in layers of PPE several times a week for months. I have pressure sores on my face from my N95. I asked you to wear a paper mask for 30 minutes,” the nurse added on Twitter.
“I was met by this arrogant prick flexing his false authority in a way that disregarded all of that. His colleagues were complicit.”
She used the incident to talk about the larger issues concerning police brutality. “If cops can’t tell another to put on a mask, you think they’ll tell each other to get a knee off his neck or don’t shoot her in her sleep?” referring to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The incident is still under investigation as the Seattle Police look into the matter.