Biden calls for ‘more investment, not less’ in police as GOP continues assault on ‘defund’ movement

Remark came at White House event where president signed three bills aimed at supporting law enforcement

John Bowden
Thursday 18 November 2021 16:44
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<p>President Joe Biden on the White House lawn as he departed Washington for Detroit on Wednesday</p>

President Joe Biden on the White House lawn as he departed Washington for Detroit on Wednesday

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President Joe Biden took a swipe at progressives in his own party during a White House bill signing event as he called for “more” investment in law enforcement.

Standing alongside Democratic senators and representatives at an event Thursday morning, the president opened his remarks with a rebuke of the “defund the police” movement which has found some allies among some in the party such as Rep Cori Bush, who was an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement before being elected to the House of Representatives.

“When you look at what our communities need...it’s going to require more investment, not less” in law enforcement and local police, Mr Biden said.

“Think of everything we ask of law enforcement,” he continued, noting that police often respond to a wide range of calls besides reported crimes, a fact that many “defund” supporters argue is evidence that those responsibilities should be shifted to other organisations and agencies.

Local police and other law enforcement bureaus are “the protectors and partners our communities need”, the president added.

His remarks came at the signing of three bills aimed at supporting members of law enforcement, all of which passed with bipartisan support. His only nod to progressives was a call at the end of his speech to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform package supported by some activists including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

That act remains unlikely to pass due to Republican opposition to changing qualified immunity, a legal standard that protects individual police and government officials from lawsuits when they are accused of violating a person’s constitutional rights.

Progressives have long argued that spending on America’s law enforcement agencies has reached an extreme level, pointing to the militarisation of some US police departments. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that there is “a nationwide trend of police militarization”, which the organisation warns can lead to normal police responses becoming “dangerously escalate[d] situations”.

Calls for cuts to police department budgets grew louder on the activist left in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd, who was killed after a white officer was seen on video kneeling on the man’s neck for more than nine minutes. Mr Floyd was suspected but not proven of having used a counterfeit bill at a nearby store.

Mr Biden strongly opposed those calls at the time, calling for more accountability in law enforcement agencies while defending the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a policing bill he authored that became law and in the years since has become a favorite target of police reform advocates.

“We shouldn’t be defunding cops. We should be mandating the things that we should be doing within police departments and make sure there’s total transparency,” he said in October of 2020 during an ABC News town hall. Of the crime bill, he added: "That crime bill, when we voted, the Black caucus voted for it, every Black mayor supported it across the board."

His latest comments come as the nation is watching two criminal trials involving acts of alleged armed vigilantism which many have said were both the result of racism: Court proceedings are underway for Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people and wounded a third during Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, as well as the three white men who pursued and shot to death Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Glynn County, Ga.

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