Jun 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign says he does not support defunding the police

Joe Biden

Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign said in a statement Monday that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee does not support defunding police, but is pushing for police reform and more spending on community, school, health and social programs.

Why it matters: The statement rejects claims from President Trump's re-election campaign that the former vice president would undercut the ability of police departments to do their jobs by endorsing the "defund the police" message, which has been at the heart of activist demands over the past several weeks of protests.

Driving the news: “As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded," Biden campaign spokesperson 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."

Timing: The statement dropped immediately after the Trump campaign held a call with reporters that stressed the president opposes calls to defund the police and called on Biden to clarify his position.

  • The call was the latest sign of the Trump campaign's plan to force Biden to address whether he supports language around "defunding" the police, a potential wedge issue between moderate and progressive Democrats.

What the Trump campaign is saying: “As the protesters like to say, silence is agreement," Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said on the call.

  • Murtaugh said that "the growing call for defunding or disbanding police will only lead to more chaos."

What the Biden campaign is saying: "Biden supports the urgent need for reform ... so that officers can focus on the job of policing," Bates said.

  • "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. "
  • "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. This is at the core of Joe Biden's plan to bring transformative change to our criminal justice system."

The big picture: The back and forth between the campaigns comes as several Democratic leaders have announced their support for the movement, which — despite its slogan — is less about eliminating police departments than shifting funding to other community resources.

  • On Sunday, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council signed a pledge to begin the process of dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department as it currently exists.
  • The proposal calls for replacing MPD with a yet-to-be-determined community-based public safety model, answering the calling of activists who have been pushing for a massive overhaul of law enforcement in Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd.

Go deeper: Black Lives Matter co-founder explains "Defund the police" slogan

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