In his first in-person appearance in weeks, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed the concept of “institutionalized racism,” and he included a few choice words of wisdom for police officers confronting a difficult situation that could involve the use of deadly force: aim lower.
In a speech to religious leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday, Biden took President Donald Trump to task for failing to lead in times of crisis and criticized the president for his response to racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
“He said, ‘there were fine people on both sides.’ No president’s ever said that,” Biden recalled. “Hate just hides, it doesn’t go away and when you have someone in power who breathes oxygen to the hate under the rocks, hate comes out from under the rocks. It matters what the president says…a president’s words can take a nation to war during peace.”
Biden also pledged to handle “institutionalized racism,” particularly in law enforcement, appointing a panel within his first 100 days as president to tackle the issues of police training, strategy, and culture.
“There are a lot of different things that can change,” Biden said.
He also had some words of wisdom for police officers who might find themselves in difficult situations, facing off with a suspect who has placed them in a position of potentially using deadly force.
“Instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there’s an unarmed person coming at ’em with a knife or something to shoot ’em in the leg instead of the heart is a very different thing,” Biden said, according to The Recount.
He did not specify any details about his hypothetical leg-shooting situation, or whether his hypothetical suspect was, in fact, armed or “unarmed,” and it’s not clear whether Biden was speaking about an arrest or a confrontation, just that he believes lives could be saved by simply moving the target.
As Dan McLaughlin at National Review notes, Biden’s “advice” is not particularly useful and would not save lives.
“Police do have a variety of tools of non-deadly force at their disposal (tasers, rubber bullets, etc.), although some of those, too, can be deadly in some circumstances,” McLaughlin notes, adding that George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests and, subsequently, riots, was likely killed by a police officer’s knee placed on his neck and held there for at least eight minutes.
“But anyone who has been trained in police work or the military could tell you: Firing a gun is always potentially deadly force,” he says. “You shoot for center mass, to kill, or you don’t shoot at all. If you’re not prepared to kill someone, you should not even point a loaded gun at them, much less fire it. If you don’t have grounds to shoot to kill, you don’t have grounds to shoot.”
Shooting a suspect in the leg also does not guarantee a non-lethal wound.
Biden has likely benefitted from a campaign largely spent in his home office, but Democrats are likely right to be concerned that, now free from coronavirus lockdown measures, Biden may become more of a liability to his own cause.
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