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At Wheatfields, OPD used plainclothes officer to find mask mandate violations

The department said it's the only time they've used the strategy
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 19:15:27-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Just like a speeding driver might slow down when they see a police cruiser on the side of the highway, Omaha Police Lt. John Wells said some businesses might begin complying with the city's mask mandate only when uniformed officers pull up in marked vehicles.

"People are entitled to due process in this country, so the officer has to witness the violations in order for the citation to be issued," Wells said.

OPD has used the tactic of sending a plainclothes officer once, Wells said, and it resulted in citations handed to the owner of Wheatfields and an employee on Dec. 11. The owner, Ronald Popp, was handed two citations for not enforcing the mandate and not wearing a mask. Popp declined a request for comment.

"Because...they had numerous, numerous complaints...I decided to take that approach and ultimately found them not to be in compliance," Wells said.

In November, 3 News Now Investigators reported that Wheatfields had received more complaints than any other Omaha business location.

The plainclothes officer looked through a window, then uniformed officers were sent inside to issue citations, Wells said.

But Wells said the strategy has risks and needs to be done carefully.

"Because I run a unit where we have multiple other assignments and multiple other responsibilities, it isn't always feasible to be able to (use a plainclothes officer)."

Wells said a plainclothes officer could be used again in "extenuating circumstances."

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