Jun 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Val Demings on why she'd say yes to being Biden's VP

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) made it clear in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that she's interested in being Joe Biden's running mate, saying two terrible crises — the killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus — have changed what the U.S. needs in a vice president.

The big picture: The former Orlando police chief told Axios' Alexi McCammond that the moment requires a vice president "who has on-the-ground experience" dealing with issues like police brutality and the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on African Americans.

  • "If he asked me, I will say yes," Demings said of Biden.
  • "This moment just shines a brighter spotlight on what this country has needed all along," Demings said — a vice president who understands "the inequities and injustices that occur at the hands of police, at the hands of our criminal justice system, but also in our education system, in housing, in health care."
  • "Look at the effects on the black community from COVID-19. So we need someone with the experience, but also the understanding at the table to move forward in a powerful and compassionate way."

Between the lines: Demings' law enforcement background wouldn't necessarily be a political advantage, particularly among progressive Democrats. The Orlando Sentinel notes that the Orlando police department faced accusations of excessive force when she ran it, but that reputation didn't start or end with her tenure, it says.

  • In the interview, Demings said she'd address any questions about trust by seeking "community input" as she does now as a member of Congress.
  • "I sit down with persons in my communities of all races and we talk about the path forward. ... I will continue to do it because I'm doing it now."

Demings' political challenge became clear in the interview: She defends her former police colleagues in Orlando, but at the same time, she has to acknowledge the demands for change given Floyd's death and the aggressive force some police have used on demonstrators in the protests since then.

  • "I had an opportunity to work with some of the best, most courageous, most compassionate men and women at the Orlando Police Department that America has to offer," Demings said.
  • "Is everybody perfect? Of course not," she said. "We have to make sure that we pause and review ourselves in a serious way."

Demings said the best way to start addressing the police violence is by calling on each police department to ban neck restraints — and to take a fresh look at their training and hiring practices.

"We all have to do better, we all have to change, we have to look at our policies as bigger than chokeholds," Demings said. "We have to look at neck restraints of any kind. We have to continue to hire the brightest and the best. We have to look at the training that officers are receiving."

  • "I think what we've seen all over the country in the last few days is America crying out and saying that we need to hold everybody accountable, and especially those who have been charged with protecting and serving."

The bottom line: Demings said change doesn't always come quickly: "Sometimes it comes swiftly, sometimes it takes a while to get it right. ... Sometimes the wheels of justice don't turn as quickly as we want them to."

  • But her message to those marching in the protests, she said, is to "be a part of the change. And I'm so thankful that's what ... they've decided to do."
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