~ by Trevor Phipps ~
With the “new normal” social distancing policies in place, local police have had to change certain practices.
Many people have wondered if it makes the job of law enforcement officers more difficult when most people out in the public are wearing masks.
Many have wondered if masks inhibit an officer’s ability to read someone’s emotions or tell if they are intoxicated. Masks can also propose challenges when police are trying to identify a suspect.
According to Teller County Sheriff Commander Greg Couch, a mask does not get in the way much with DUI related situations because officers are trained to focus on the person’s eyes, and when they are in tense or violent situations, they focus on body language as a whole. “As far as sizing somebody up, I don’t know if having faces covered would make a big difference to me,” Couch said. “I look at people’s hands because that is what’s going to kill you. We look at body language more than facial expressions. You can tell a lot by somebody’s eyes and we pay attention to how their eyebrows have come together or if they are relaxed.”
Couch said that the fact that everyone is now wearing face masks has changed some things for law enforcement agents, but that their training goes beyond reading facial expressions. “It is a factor, but I just don’t think that it is a major factor from my personal experience,” the commander explained. “We watch how people stand on their feet and if they are ready to jump forward or run backward. We focus on a combination of things and we are not necessarily concentrating on people’s faces. Like I said we mostly concentrate on people’s hands because that’s what will kill us.”
The commander did say that law enforcement officials could ask people to remove their masks in certain situations. “If we are trying to identify someone, if someone is telling us there is somebody that doesn’t have an I.D. and they are a suspect, then we may have them remove their mask for identification,” Couch said.