WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump and his allies have seized on calls to “defund the police” as a dangerous example of Democratic overreach as he fights for momentum amid crises that threaten his reelection.
Key Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, are distancing themselves from the “defund” push, which some supporters say is a symbolic commitment to end systemic racism and shift policing priorities rather than an actual plan to eliminate law enforcement agencies.
But confusion over the proposal's intent has created an opportunity for the Republican president, who has struggled to navigate the delicate debate over racial justice, risking support from people of color, suburban women and independents less than five months before Election Day.
Facing increasing pressure to weigh in, Biden addressed the issue Monday in an interview with “CBS Evening News.”
“I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community," Biden said.
Other opponents of the movement include Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a former presidential candidate and one of two black Democratic senators, and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., head of the Congressional Black Caucus.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson, in an interview, also declined to endorse calls to defund the police.
“I support the energy behind it. I don’t know what that substantively means. As I’m talking to people about the concept, I’ve gotten three different explanations,” said Johnson, who has criticized Trump. “We know there has to be a change in the culture of policing in this country.”