Democrats divided, police dissatisfied over Biden’s law enforcement messaging

(The Center Square) – Amid rising violent crime levels around the country, President Joe Biden sent a message to defund the police supporters late last week during his visit to New York.

“The answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said in New York City where two law enforcement officers recently were killed in a Harlem shooting.

Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund President Jason Johnson said Biden’s comments are not enough to satisfy the police community.

“President Biden needs to know that merely not supporting the ‘defund the police’ slogan does not make him or his policies supportive of law enforcement,” Johnson said. “In fact, the Biden Administration has repeatedly peddled falsehoods and dangerous myths which have demoralized and disempowered the police. The ‘defunding’ movement has been about much more than funding. It has successfully advocated for policies that have resulted in skyrocketing levels of violent crime across the country.”

Other critics have pointed to the rise in ambush attacks on police officers. The National Fraternal Order of Police said 364 police officers were shot last year with ambush attacks up 115% from the year prior.

“If criminals don’t care about shooting police officers, what will they do to law-abiding citizens?” the group said.

Johnson pointed to a range of policies that he says have disempowered police during the violent crime wave.

“President Biden himself has backed many of these policies, demanding passage of the ill-conceived and dangerous George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which would hobble law enforcement,” Johnson said. “Biden’s repeated false and ill-informed claims about the propriety of actions taken by law enforcement officers in high-profile cases undermine the faith and trust of police in their leaders and the public’s faith and trust in law enforcement. Such claims were motivated by his desire to pander to the ‘defund the police’ crowd, but, at the very same time, he has alienated and abandoned those interested in maintaining public safety through professional policing.”

This wasn’t the first time the president has gone against the defund movement. In June of last year, Biden called for hiring more police officers to respond to the wave of violent crime since the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed that sentiment at the time.

“But what I would say to you is that the President has never supported defunding the police,” Psaki said at a White House press briefing. “He’s always supported community policing programs. He’s supported giving funding to – to states and localities around the country, including through his American Rescue Plan, because he thinks there is an essential role to play for community policing.”

Those comments drew pushback for the president at the time, and his most recent comments in New York have been met with another round of criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

“My colleagues keep telling us to wait,” U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said Sunday. “They keep telling us defunding the police and investing in communities won’t work. Well, their policies keep ending up with police murdering Black people. Enough patronizing. Listen to the movements that are telling you how to save lives.”

Other leading Democrats were just as pointed in their messages.

“The only data police use to justify themselves is crime, which is a measure of their failure,” Dyjuan Tatro, a senior advisor for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote on Twitter. “Every time they talk about rising crime, remember, that their clearance rates are abysmal. They are more worried about their paychecks than public safety.”

While some kinds of crime stayed the same or even decreased since the pandemic began, one kind has sharply increased: homicides. Many cities have broken or nearly broken their violent crime records on the heels of cutting police budgets. Many experts have linked that rise to the defund movement, saying officers either lack the resources to patrol more dangerous neighborhoods or fear they will be publicly maligned and even jailed in the event an altercation occurs.

Republicans have hammered Democrats in advertising for months over the defunding message. Heading into the midterms in November, that issue will likely resurface as a major tension point in close races.

“Nobody believes Democrats are going to abandon their pro-crime agenda. Democrats are, and always will be, the party of Defund the Police,” said Mike Berg, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

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