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Sanders Dismisses Progressive Calls to Defund Police, Says Departments Need More Resources

Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Milford, N.H. February 4, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) broke from progressive counterparts in calls to defund the police, saying instead that the country needs “well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments.”

Sanders addressed progressive critics who viewed him as an obstacle to growing calls for defunding the police in the wake of national unrest following the death of George Floyd in a New Yorker interview published Tuesday.

“Do I think we should not have police departments in America? No, I don’t. There’s no city in the world that does not have police departments,” He stated.

On Sunday, the Minneapolis City Council announced it had a veto-proof majority to “abolish the Minneapolis Police system as we know it,” and city council president Lisa Bender explained on Monday that fearing the repercussions of dismantling police forces “comes from a place of privilege.” Ilhan Omar, a former surrogate for Sanders’s presidential campaign, applauded the decision.

Another Sanders ally, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), attempted to explain on Twitter that the call to defund the police “means that Black & Brown communities are asking for the same budget priorities that White communities have already created for themselves.”

But when asked about how “a lot of people in the progressive movement now are calling for defunding or abolishing the police,” Sanders demurred. The Vermont senator dismissed the notion that reducing police budgets would help eliminate racial disparities in the use of force, and seemed to suggest that police departments should receive additional resources.

“Too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training,” he said.

“I want to change that,” he continued. “I also called for the transformation of police departments into — understanding that many police departments and cops deal every day with issues of mental illness, deal with issues of addiction, and all kinds of issues which should be dealt with by mental-health professionals or others, and not just by police officers.”

Sanders concluded by saying he wanted to “redefine what police departments do” by offering support to help police “make their jobs better defined.”

“I do believe that we need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments. Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree,” he said.

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