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Who Wants to Defund the Police?

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks next to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas before boarding Air Force Two at El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down on Biden senior advisor Cedric Richmond’s weekend claim that it is Republicans who have advocated defunding the police by not supporting the $1.9 trillion spending package passed by Democrats and signed by the president back in March.

“Well the president did mention that the American Rescue Plan — the state and local funding —  something that was supported by the president, and a lot of Democrats who supported and voted for the bill, could help ensure local cops were kept on the beat in communities across the country. As you know, didn’t receive a single Republican vote” Psaki explained.

The White House’s attempt to turn the issue around on Republicans comes in the context of rising violent crime rates in cities across the country. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd’s death de facto began the defund the police movement, homicides were, as of June 1, up 89 percent compared to last year.  Through June 27, New York City has seen a 12 percent increase in murders since last year, and 50 percent increase from 2019.

None of the funds appropriated by the American Rescue Plan were reserved for law enforcement funding. Hypothetically, officials at the state and local level could use some of the funds given them to furnish police budgets.

Psaki did not provide evidence that Republicans would oppose a standalone bill with the targeted aim of putting more police on the streets.

There is however ample evidence of prominent Democrats calling for funding to be stripped from law enforcement leading up to the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

Vice President Kamala Harris

June 2020:

We really do have to get to a point where we agree that the status quo way of thinking about achieving safety is really wrong when it assumes that the best way to achieve more safety is to put more police on the streets. It’s just wrong… Right now what we’re seeing in America is many cities spend over 1/3 of their entire city budget on policing. But meanwhile we’ve been defunding public schools for years in America, we’ve got to reexamine what we’re doing with Americans’ taxpayer dollars, and ask the question are we getting the right return on our investment? Are we actually creating healthy and safe communities?

Rep. Ilhan Omar

June 2020:

The ‘defund the police’ movement, is one of reimagining the current police system to build an entity that does not violate us, while relocating funds to invest in community services. Let’s be clear, the people who now oppose this, have always opposed calls for systematic change.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib

April 2021:

It wasn’t an accident. Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist. Daunte Wright was met with aggression & violence. I am done with those who condone government funded murder. No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley

April 2021:

From slave patrols to traffic stops. We can’t reform this.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

June 2020:

Defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools.

Rep. Cori Bush

November 2020:

So yes, defund your butts. Defund you.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta

June 2020:

While front-end systems changes are important, it is also critical for state and local leaders to heed calls from Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives activists to decrease police budgets and the scope, role, and responsibility of police in our lives. While many of these changes must be centered at the state and local levels, success will require the leadership, support, and commitment of the federal government, including Congress. Every year, Congress provides millions of dollars to law enforcement agencies through federal grant programs to support police. This moment requires Congress to conduct oversight and reexamine how those funding streams are supporting discriminatory policing practices and eroding community trust.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh

June 2020:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has submitted a revised budget for the 2021 fiscal year in which he calls for diverting some police overtime funds to support police reforms and bolster social services… The new budget involves reallocating 20%, or $12 million, of the Boston Police Department’s overtime budget to invest in equity and inclusion after Walsh on Friday declared racism a public health crisis.

President Joe Biden

July 2020

Question: “Do we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?”

Biden: “Yes, absolutely.”

***

While President Biden and the majority of elected Democrats have not called for the abolition of the police, many — including President Biden and high-ranking members of his administration — have voiced their support for budget cuts of some kind. Moreover, rank-and-file Democrats are far more likely to support defunding the police than any other demographic. While Democrats still disapprove of it by a five point margin (39 percent oppose and 34 percent support) Americans writ large disapprove by a 40 point margin (58 percent to 18 percent).

It would seem that Biden and his party are determined to try to thread the needle between satisfying the substantial portion of his base that supports such measures while not scaring off the rest of the country.

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