Updated: February 24, 2021
U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday night walked a fine line between police brutality and responsible law enforcement.
Speaking in the state of Wisconsin where 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot in the back seven times on August 23, 2020, by a white police officer as his children watched from his car, President Biden attempted to strike the right balance.
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The president voiced his opposition, once again, to the movement to defund the police, but also called for responsible policing devoid of racism and racial profiling.
Mr. Biden called for additional funding to address institutional problems in the force and the society, explaining that white, black and brown people should all be treated the same way for the same crime.
A Wisconsin pastor and member of the state’s Racial Disparity Task Force asked the President Tuesday, “How can we be sure that we don’t over-legislate police officers so that they can’t do their job to protect the law-abiding citizens who live in these high-crime neighborhoods, and yet train officers to police with compassion?”
“By number one, not defunding the police. We have to put more money in police work, so we have legitimate community policing and we’re in a situation where we changed the legislation,” Biden responded.
These remarks run contrary to the controversial rallying cry to “defund the police” that was popularized by social justice activists throughout last year’s racial unrest and embraced by far-left politicians such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have been furious that black and brown people are treated harshly by the police than white people. For instance, none of the police officers involved in Jacob Blake’s incident has faced any criminal charges.
President Biden emphasized the importance of rehabilitation in the justice system, saying, “No one should go to jail for a drug offense. No one should go to jail for the use of a drug. They should go to drug rehabilitation.”
Calling for the prison system to better equip people for life after their sentence, Biden said, “Right now, as you well know, most places you get out of prison, you get 25 bucks and a bus ticket. You end up back under the bridge exactly where you were before.”
“Every cop, when they get up in the morning and put on that shield has a right to expect to be able to go home to their family that night. Conversely, every kid walking across the street wearing a hoodie is not a member of a gang and is about to knock somebody off,” he said.
Speaking on what kind of reform is needed to address issue of police brutality, Biden said, “So, it’s about education. I’d love to talk to you more about it because it is the answer in my view, that and education. Actually, access to education.”
The President did not comment on any specific policy proposals but his opposition to defunding the police is indicative of a source of disagreement within the Democratic party.
The exact meaning of the phrase “defund the police” is largely disagreed upon but some Democratic politicians, such as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Omar, have embraced the movement. Others have pushed back at the idea, instead suggesting a less drastic reappropriation of funds like the President discussed Tuesday.