Thursday, 1 Oct 2020

Biden opposes 'defund the police' effort after Floyd death

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden expressed opposition Monday (June 8) to defunding US police forces despite the movement gaining visibility in street protests following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody.

US President Donald Trump has wrongly accused his November election rival of seeking to slash funding for police departments in cities nationwide, as some liberal activists have demanded during mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

But those calls have not been echoed by Democratic leaders, who did not include such language in a sweeping legislative package of policing reforms introduced Monday in Congress.

The 77-year-old Biden, who served eight years as the previous vice president, “does not believe that police should be defunded,” his campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.

“Biden supports the urgent need for reform,” Bates added, including funding for public schools and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing.

“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 wants such programs to also focus on diversifying police departments so they more closely resemble the communities in which they serve, and provide additional funding for body-worn cameras.

Many police departments are seeking such reforms but lack the resources – “and the Trump Administration has in fact made obtaining those resources more difficult,” Bates said.

Biden’s plan would pump US$300 million (S$416.57 million) into such community policing efforts.

Trump’s re-election team denounced what it called “a weak statement” by Biden’s campaign.

“We still haven’t heard from Joe Biden himself on the radical ‘Defund the Police’ movement,” one “which invites chaos in American communities,” Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh said.

Protesters in several cities have chanted “defund the police,” as multiple fresh episodes of police brutality have been caught on video during recent demonstrations.

Republicans have quickly pounced on the expression as an example of Democrats seeking a dissolution of the American security system.

But top Democrats, while being attuned to demonstrators’ pleas for racial justice, have expressed wariness of embracing the phrasing.

Senator Cory Booker told NBC on Sunday that while “we are over-policed as a society,” he does not advocate using the expression “defund the police.”

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