Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, is not signing on to the most popular solution to police violence among progressive activists, defunding and dismantling police forces, according to his spokesperson, who issued a statement about the issue Monday.
Biden has placed himself front and center on the issue of racism and law enforcement, breaking his self-imposed coronavirus-related isolation last week to deliver his first speech on the issue. In it, Biden pledged to form up a law enforcement accountability panel within his first 100 days as president, and suggested, oddly, those police officers looking to exit an armed conflict where deadly force is at issue, aim for a suspect’s extremities rather than center mass.
Monday morning, Biden responded to a weekend of continued anti-racism protests by issuing a statement distancing himself from the most notable suggestion for handling an alleged increase in police violence, defunding law enforcement.
Unlike several of his potential running mates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), he does not support the measure, per Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Epstein.
"Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain. Biden supports the urgent need for reform…" pic.twitter.com/k0IConBSj3
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) June 8, 2020
“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago,” Biden’s spokesperson said in the written statement, “Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded.”
“Biden supports the urgent need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing,” the statement continues. ‘This also means funding community policing programs that improve relationships between officers and residents, and provides the training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths.”
Biden also supports funding for police department diversity programs, body cameras, and other accountability measures, his spokesman says, as well as “transformative change” for law enforcement, but that doesn’t include stripping police of funding or disbanding police departments altogether, as Minneapolis has chosen to do.
The response is likely to come as a shock to activists and far-left Democrats who proposed the “defund” and “disband” ideas over the weekend. Although the ideas sounded promising, it seems, to progressives, they did not appear to resonate among more mainstream voters, and by Monday morning, many of those who mentioned “defunding” police departments, including Harris herself and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been at the forefront of recent civil rights events, were distancing themselves from the measures.
Sharpton told MSNBC Monday that the slogan, “defund the police,” maybe “misleading without interpretation.”
“The slogan may be misleading without interpretation,” Rev. Al says on @Morning_Joe of “Defund the Police”
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 8, 2020
Harris, appearing on “The View” dodged the question of what defunding the police would truly involve, focusing instead on pressing “reform” measures.
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) June 8, 2020
The Trump campaign has sought to connect Biden and other prominent Democrats to the “defund the police” movement. The president tweeted about the issue on Sunday and, in a conference call with reporters Monday, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh urged voters to assume those Democrats who do not speak out against the policy are inclined to support it.
“As the protesters like to say, silence is agreement,” Murtaugh said. “By his silence, Joe Biden is endorsing defunding the police.
The Trump campaign issued a statement shortly after the Biden campaign.
“Joe Biden cannot be let off the hook after his campaign issued a weak statement from a mid-level staffer. We still haven’t heard from Joe Biden himself on the radical ‘Defund the Police’ movement in the Democrat Party. It would have been the simplest thing in the world to stick his name on a statement, but he didn’t even do that. We have previously seen the Biden campaign say one thing on an issue right before their candidate says another. Until Americans hear from Joe Biden himself, they have no way of knowing where he really stands. Joe Biden is the leader of his party and he could single-handedly step in and steer elected Democrats away from this terrible policy, which invites chaos in American communities, but he has remained secluded in his basement saying nothing. The ‘Defund the Police’ train has already left the Democrat station, and Joe Biden is merely a weak passenger.”
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