A national movement to defund police is gathering steam — but former Vice President Joe Biden is not on board.
“No, I don‘t support defunding the police,” Biden said in a CBS interview excerpt aired Monday evening. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”
Earlier in the day, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign stressed the need for law enforcement reforms like community policing, increased diversity in police hiring and funding for body cameras. Yet Biden’s desire for “transformative change” in the criminal justice system falls short of what many progressive activists are calling for in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died last month in Minneapolis.
“Biden supports the urgent need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement Monday afternoon.
While Biden supports increased funding for some programs that activists support, the former vice president’s platform also calls for increasing investment in law enforcement, a stance that runs counter to what many protesters have called for.
Last year, Biden released his plan for criminal justice reform, which pledged to invest $300 million into community policing efforts and would require police to reflect the racial composition of their communities.
Activists in favor of defunding police have instead advocated for money that would otherwise be earmarked for law enforcement instead be diverted toward other programs that address issues like homelessness and mental health. Proponents say that key to their demands is the fact that police brutality disproportionately affects communities of color. There is not widespread agreement on whether defunding the police would lead to disbanding all police.
For some activists, such as those behind the movement 8toabolition, defunding the police is part of a larger effort to redefine society.
“The end goal of these reforms is not to create better, friendlier, or more community-oriented police or prisons,” the group’s website reads. “Instead, we hope to build toward a society without police or prisons, where communities are equipped to provide for their safety and wellbeing.”
In Minneapolis, the site of Floyd’s killing, the City Council announced on Sunday that it had a veto-proof majority to dismantle its police department.
Later on Monday afternoon, Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh labeled the Biden statement as “weak.”
The ‘Defund the Police’ train has already left the Democrat station, and Joe Biden is merely a weak passenger,” Murtaugh said in a statement.
Matthew Choi contributed to this report.