Senators urge anti-bias police training over mask fears

Virus Outbreak New York
Posted at 3:20 PM, Apr 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 15:25:04-04

NEW YORK — Democratic lawmakers want police departments to be vigilant about any racially biased policing during the coronavirus pandemic, as people in communities of color express fears of being profiled while wearing masks or other face coverings in public.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California and other Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter Friday to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

In it they urge federal law enforcement agencies to provide anti-bias training and guidance to police officers.

They said if people of color, especially African Americans, feel at risk of selective enforcement, they may not adopt the precautionary measures to avoid spreading the virus.

As a clearer picture emerges of COVID-19’s deadly toll on black Americans, leaders are demanding a reckoning of systemic policies they say have made many African Americans far more vulnerable to the virus.

The latest Associated Press analysis of available state and local data shows that nearly one-third of those who have died from the coronavirus are African American, even though black people make up only about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.

A growing chorus of leaders are pressuring the government to not just release comprehensive racial demographic data, but to also outline clear strategies to blunt the devastation.