TSA: South Carolina police are not exempt from airport mask rule
A South Carolina County Police Department argued in internal emails that its officers who worked without a mask for months at Myrtle Beach International Airport are exempt from the federal mask mandate, but the Transportation Security Administration says that is not the case.
The Horry County Police Department said it was not required to follow the rule because masks could pose a ‘health risk’ to officers and prevent them from doing their job properly, according to emails obtained by The Sun News via the South Carolina Freedom of Information. Act.
David McMahon, the TSA’s director of federal security for South Carolina, informed the department in an email exchange that he could have a warrant removal if he formally requested one. But TSA spokesman Mark Howell told the newspaper that police did not follow up on the request, so an exemption was never granted.
The federal travel mask rule, which could result in thousands of dollars in fines, has been in effect since February 2021. Horry County police have been at the airport since last July, and The Sun News has asked three times during these months why the agents were not not complying with the warrant. The department declined to answer detailed questions but said it was in compliance, despite officers’ actions appearing to show otherwise.
McMahon said the Myrtle Beach airport was the only one he or anyone he spoke with at the TSA knew who had trouble with the rule. He even sent special microfiber masks that would be more comfortable for officers and prevent glasses from fogging up.
Shortly after his department was offered the chance to apply for an exemption, Chief Joseph Hill said in an email to a lieutenant that he expected officers to wear masks at the airport. But there was a caveat. He said he thought they were “following the spirit of the mandate” if masks were worn in most areas, but not when sitting or standing at a police podium.
“If a passenger approaches, have them wear a mask,” Hill wrote on Aug. 21. “It’s a very visible message, so it can keep biting us if we’re not careful.”
Without an official exemption at the airport — something no other US police department had apparently received — officers continued to ignore the warrant. Complaints reviewed by the newspaper show visitors expressing confusion and concern over the lack of masks, but the chief told a lieutenant in an Aug. 7 email: “Based on my social media monitoring, no one will care, no one who matters. ”
This story was originally published February 1, 2022 1:29 p.m.