An unknown number of deputies of the Ada County Sheriff's Office have been using a private and possibly illegal hair salon to keep their appearance neat and tidy during the COVID-19 crisis and government shutdown of Idaho’s economy, the office confirmed Tuesday.
The covert salon was set up at the clubhouse of the Ada County Sheriff's Office Employees Association, off Liberty Street in Boise. It’s unclear if the association is still giving haircuts at the location.
The hair salon was operated by the association even as privately-owned salons were shuttered by Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order, originally issued in late March. That order gave way to the governor’s reopening plan, which Little announced on April 30. His plan keeps salons closed until May 16.
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean’s social distancing order, enacted by the first-term mayor on April 30, also prohibits salons from conducting business.
Originally, McLean’s plan dictated that Boiseans – cosmetologists included – follow social distancing guidelines through the end of June. McLean has since suggested that Boise salons might be able to open on May 16, too.
Patrick Orr, Ada County Sheriff's Office public information officer, told the Idaho Freedom Foundation Tuesday that the association believes an exemption in Little’s order allows cops to use the salon because officers are essential. That exemption also allows other businesses to serve the cops’ needs.
“The employee association interpretation of Gov. Little’s stay-at-home order determined that a specific exemption existed for businesses that provide support for law enforcement and first responders,” Orr wrote in an email.
Orr noted these specific exemptions in Little’s order:
For the purposes of the order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, and law enforcement personnel and others working for or to support Essential Businesses are categorically exempt from this Order.
Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses or Essential Government Functions with the support or supplies necessary to operate. ….
The sheriff’s office handbook, Orr noted, requires employees to “wear their hair neatly trimmed, and well-groomed at all time while on duty. General appearance shall be consistent with contemporary business and military style. Unnatural dye colors or radical length differences, such as a ‘spike’ shall not be worn.”
Orr added, “The person who cut the hair [is a] significant other of a member of the ACSEA and is a licensed cosmetologist.”
Though a licensed cosmetologist may have given the cuts to deputies, the salon still likely violates Idaho’s cosmetology licensure law. Under that law, only licensed cosmetologists can cut hair, and they must do so in a state-inspected facility that meets certain guidelines.
For its part, the sheriff’s association did not answer several requests for comment.