Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive pick for their 2020 presidential contender, is already on thin ice with anti-racism activists after resisting the push to embrace calls to “defund” and disband police departments, but now Black Lives Matter is concerned Biden may be about to select an ex-cop as his running mate.
Among Biden’s top picks is Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a two-term Florida Congresswoman best known for being one of several legislators selected to lead the House team prosecuting President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, and she has reportedly made it to the second round of vetting, per the New York Post.
“But Demings’ 27 years in the Orlando Police Department, where she rose from beat cop to first female chief, are complicating things,” the outlet reports.
Demings rose from beat cop to chief of police in Orlando, Florida, over the course of two decades, but in the four years she was the Orlando Police Department’s top administrator she “was frequently embroiled in excessive-force controversies, and she repeatedly defended the actions of officers.”
That’s a big problem for organizations like Black Lives Matter, who are currently at the forefront of American politics and setting the terms of the national conversation on race relations and law enforcement, particularly on the left and among Democrats.
“Joe Biden would be an idiot to put her on his ticket. People are already on the fence about him,” Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter, Greater New York chapter, told media. “When black people become police officers, they are no longer black. They are blue. And I have been told this by numerous officers.”
On at least two occasions, Demings’ officers slammed a suspect so hard they sustained permanent physical damage, and, the Post says, an in-depth, independent review of the Orlando Police Department found that “rogue cops operate with impunity, and there’s nothing anybody who finds himself at the wrong end of their short fuse can do about it.”
Demings has defended her record.
“Looking for a negative story in a police department is like looking for a prayer at church,” Demings wrote in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel. “I believe a reasonable person also understands that a few seconds (even on video) rarely capture the entire set of circumstances.”
That may be a reasonable approach to questions about the use of force, but it’s unlikely to satisfy activists looking for a quick, acceptable response on race relations. And her logic may imperil her chance to be Biden’s running mate, even though her lack of name recognition and national presence would give Biden’s team the opportunity to approach the campaign with less baggage than if they selected a more openly divisive candidate, like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) or Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
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