Former Vice President Joe Biden does not support defunding police departments in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, his 2020 presidential campaign said on Monday.
“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “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.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee instead supports more funding for community policing programs aimed at diversifying law enforcement and providing additional body cameras, the spokesman said. Biden’s campaign platform calls for a $300 million investment in community-oriented policing programs at the Department of Justice.
“There are many police departments across the country who are seeking to realize these kinds of changes, but haven’t had the resources to ― and the Trump Administration has in fact made obtaining those resources more difficult,” Bates added in the statement, pointing to President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the programs.
Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ― as well as dozens of other Black Americans ― protesters and activists are demanding systemic changes to police departments across the country. Specifically, they’re pushing to shift funds away from large law enforcement budgets and to invest that money into communities of color.
“The police are a force of violence that profiles, harasses, and inflicts harm on Black communities without accountability ― and with far too many resources,” Kailee Scales, managing director of Black Lives Matter Global Network, told HuffPost.
Democratic leaders in Congress have been wary about embracing the defunding argument.
On Monday, top House and Senate Democrats unveiled a sweeping bill intended to overhaul policing. It would ban chokeholds, including the kind used by a police officer in the death of Floyd last month, as well as no-knock warrants in drug cases, a tactic that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. The bill would also create a federal registry for misconduct complaints against officers.
But the legislation, called the Justice in Policing Act, does not include any cuts to police funding.
“I can’t imagine that happening in a federal way,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said when asked about the defund-the-police movement at a Monday press conference. “But let me just tell you that part of that cry is a desire for there to be significant higher investment in communities. … What are the root causes of the problems in communities?”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, called the question of police funding a “local matter” during an interview on MSNBC.
Nevertheless, Republicans are seeking to tie Democrats to the growing movement against police funding, which they see as a winning issue for the GOP in November’s elections. On a Monday conference call with reporters, Trump’s reelection campaign described Biden as “complicit” in the debate.
“Biden does not have the strength to stand up to extremists now calling the shots in his party,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said on the call, which was held shortly before the Biden campaign issued its statement. Murtaugh argued that the former vice president would “contribute to the chaos” in America.