Democratic senators, including former presidential candidates Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray demanding racial profiling training for all law enforcement specific to the coronavirus pandemic, as wearing masks or face coverings become the new norm.
As the CDC has now recommended that everyone wears cloth face masks in public—and several states, counties, cities or towns, in fact, mandate facial coverings—several Black men have reported being targeted by law enforcement for adhering to the guidelines.
“On April 3, the CDC recommended that individuals ‘wear face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.’ Less than one week later, African-American men began reporting incidents of racial profiling for adhering to the CDC’s guidance,” the senators, along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), wrote in the letter, according to a press release.
The senators highlighted cases, such as the one in Miami, where Dr. Armen Henderson was handcuffed in front of his own home while loading supplies for the homeless, whom he helps test for the coronavirus.
In a classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t, the senators also pointed out that some Black men are also facing problems with law enforcement when they do not wear masks.
The senators warned that such targeting may result in some communities choosing not to adopt the precautions recommended, like wearing masks, which could have “dire health consequences,” especially given the Black community is one of the most vulnerable communities facing the pandemic.
“With the ongoing public health emergency, it is more important than ever for law enforcement to build trust with communities of color. Accordingly, we urge your agencies to immediately provide training and guidance on bias, policing and disproportionate or selective enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also urge your agencies to encourage the use of federal guidance to create model recommendations at the state and local level,” the letter added.
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