As protests against police brutality have unfolded across the country, calls to defund or abolish police departments are picking up traction among activists, and even sparked a pledge by the Minneapolis city council to “dismantle” the police force there. But Joe Biden’s campaign said on Monday that the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee does not support that approach.
“Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told NPR 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.”
Instead, the campaign is touting a criminal justice plan that includes a $300 million investment in community policing initiatives, plus efforts to diversify police forces and fund more body cameras.
Separate from police funding, the campaign says Biden wants to ramp up funding for public schools, summer programs and mental health and substance abuse treatment “so that officers can focus on the job of policing.”
The statement came on the same day Biden traveled to Houston to meet privately with the family of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose killing by police sparked ongoing protests.
While some activists are calling for police to be abolished entirely or disbanded and rebuilt from the ground up, many advocates of defunding police have trained their focus on siphoning funds away from multi-million dollar police budgets to other priorities like public health or education.
On Sunday, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council voted to support disbanding the city’s police department and building a new public safety system. Protesters booed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey over the weekend after he said he did not support dismantling the police force.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would trim the city’s $6 billion police budget and divert funds to social services, but didn’t say by how much. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would cut the city’s police budget by as much as $150 million to help fund youth jobs programs and health programs, among other initiatives.
Protesters in Washington, D.C., added “defund the police” to a Black Lives Matter mural painted by the city on a street outside the White House.
Republicans including President Trump have started wielding the debate over police funding to attack Biden and the Democratic Party.
“LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE,” Trump tweeted Monday. “The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!”
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are unveiling a bill designed to stop excessive force by police officers and measures that would make it easier to track and prosecute police misconduct.