Joe Biden reportedly told a group of civil rights leaders that demands to defund the police gave Republicans an issue with which to “beat the living hell” out of Democrats, according to leaked audio.
Biden’s remarks came during a virtual meeting attended by Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and prominent civil rights leaders, including NAACP President Derrick Johnson and Rev. Al Sharpton. In the call, Biden urged the leaders to think very carefully before they push the defund the police movement as two Georgia Senate runoffs that will decide who controls the chamber are set for Jan. 5.
“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves on dealing with police reform in that, because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing – which I promise you, will occur. Promise you,” Biden said in the leaked audio, first obtained by The Intercept.
“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable,” Biden added. “We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”
Biden told the leaders “to think about how much do we push between now and Jan. 5” regarding police reform. At the same time, the president-elect pledged to form a “full-blown commission” to examine the issue.
A Biden transition team official said in a statement in response to the leaked recording: “President-elect Biden is the same person behind closed doors that he is public; honest, direct and realistic about the challenges facing our nation the day he is sworn in. As he made clear throughout the campaign, he believes in supporting bold and urgent reform to our criminal justice system while continuing to support law enforcement’s mission to keep our communities safe.”
Former President Barack Obama last week kicked off a controversy when he said the “defund the police” movement was just a “snappy slogan.”
In an interview on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America” TV show, Obama was asked: “If you’re a young activist today and you believe really passionately in a slogan, like ‘Defund the Police,’ what is your advice to that activist?”
“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” Obama said.
“But if you instead say, ‘Hey, you know what? Let’s reform the police department so that everybody’s being treated fairly.’ And not just in policing, but in sentencing, how can we divert young people from getting into crime? And if there was a homeless guy, can maybe we send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy?” he said.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza later ripped Obama.
“What I want to hear from former President Barack Obama if he’s going to use his vast platform for these conversations, what I want to hear from President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is: What are you going to do?” Garza said in an interview this week for Politico’s Women Rule Capstone event. “And that’s what we haven’t heard amid all this hoopla about ‘defund the police.’ ”
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