Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and other congressional leaders are calling on the FBI and Justice Department to address the increased concern about how police across the country are dealing with recommendations from the CDC urging people to wear face coverings when they go outside.

“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 stated in their letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“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,” they added.

For weeks, Black people across America have expressed worry about how the new guidelines could be used against Black people. Some of the community's fears have already been confirmed with reports of Black people being kicked out of stores for wearing masks and disturbing videos of police attacking Black people for not wearing masks.

The encounters show the difficult situations many Black people face now that local municipalities have passed rules requiring people to wear masks on public transportation and in supermarkets. According to The New York Times, Black people, particularly Black men, fear they will be racially profiled and harassed for wearing face coverings in public. 

People have flooded social media with stories about being followed and accosted because they were wearing masks.

The problem is even taking place in other countries. A photo went viral this weekend showing police approaching and stopping a Black London resident for being outside while a white person literally does a cartwheel nearby. 

In the lawmakers' letter, Harris and Booker detail a number of incidents that have already occurred, including the situation in Wood River, Illinois, where two Black men in surgical masks recorded themselves being followed by a police officer as they left Walmart. 

They also referenced a situation that happened last week involving a Black doctor in Miami, Florida, who was handcuffed while wearing a mask as he prepared for a volunteer shift to test homeless individuals for COVID-19. The video showed him being handcuffed and detained right outside his home. 

"The Justice Department should send instructions to state and local law enforcement, consistent with this existing guidance. But recent cases also highlight the need for additional guidance on bias and enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter states. 

"If communities of color—especially African American communities—feel at risk of disproportionate or selective enforcement, they may avoid seeking help or adopting precautionary measures recommended by the CDC.  This, in turn, could have dire public health consequences—especially given that COVID-19 is already infecting and killing African Americans at alarming and disproportionately high rates," the letter adds.

In an email to the Associated Press, Harris said, "During this crisis, it is more important than ever for law enforcement to prioritize building relationships of trust with the communities they serve.”

Police officials have already pushed back on the letter, saying police departments across the country are overworked and have previously received implicit bias training.

“In the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, I find it troubling that anyone is asking the nation’s already overworked officers to take time out of their work for training, based on a few allegations of improper conduct. This seems like political opportunism, at the least opportunistic time for the country,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told the Associated Press in a phone interview. 

The letter was also signed by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Ben Cardin D-Md.