Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s presumptive 2020 presidential nominee, answered progressive calls to defund and disband law enforcement agencies across the country by pledging an influx of cash to police departments for “community policing” in a new op-ed, published Wednesday.
Although President Donald Trump has worked to connect Biden to activists calling for defunding — an extreme measure even by far-left standards, though one that has gained popularity in the wake of national anti-racism protests — Biden has said, both himself and through spokespeople, that he does not support ending funding to law enforcement or disbanding police organizations.
On Wednesday, he tripled down on that, adding that he believes police departments should actually receive more money so that they can expand “community policing” initiatives that help cops connect with members of at-risk communities.
“While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments that are violating people’s rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police,” Biden said in a piece published Wednesday in USA Today. “The better answer is to give police departments the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms, and to condition other federal dollars on completing those reforms.”
“I’ve long been a firm believer in the power of community policing—getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect. That’s why I’m proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in our country,” he added.
That money, Biden said, should be used to purchase equipment that increases accountability, to adopt a “national use of force standard,” and to fund diversity programs aimed at hiring police officers that are representative of their community.
Many of those activists behind the “defund the police” movement insist that the money “saved” by disbanding law enforcement organizations would be better spent on mental health programs and government initiatives to address poverty, but Biden proposes spending that in addition to the $300 million to “re-fund” police departments.
“And, we need to prevent 911 calls in scenarios where police should not be our first responders. That means making serious investments in mental health services, drug treatment, and prevention programs, and services for people experiencing homelessness,” Biden wrote, suggesting that full-time social workers could be sent on calls with police officers.
Biden has been front-and-center on the issue of race relations for more than a week, seizing on a political opportunity to re-inject himself into a national debate that largely favors Democrats, after a near-two month hiatus from the public eye. The public campaign has been mostly a success for Biden, particularly given that he can deliver prepared speeches rather than rely on off-the-cuff and live stream appearances where he often fails to make coherent remarks.
He now leads President Donald Trump in national polls by an average of 5 points. He is also pulling ahead in most battleground states.
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