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Biden on policing: Head-spinning reversals, and a disconnect with Democrat platform

The Democrats' 2020 platform rejects "overpoliced and underserved Black and Latino communities," but in his 2017 book Biden praised the 1994 crime bill that put 100,000 more police on streets.

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Joe Biden in August 2019
Joe Biden in August 2019
(Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Updated: August 24, 2020 - 11:13pm

Just last month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden emphatically supported shifting funds away from police, but in 2017 he called for more police on streets and claimed credit for boosting federal funding for policing in the 1994 crime bill.

In a joint interview on Friday with running mate Kamala Harris, Biden reversed his July 2020 position in favor of a stance more in line with his 2017 views — and distinctly out of step with the recently adopted official position of his party.

The Democrats' 2020 platform rejects "overpoliced and underserved Black and Latino communities," but in his 2017 book the party's new presidential nominee praised the 1994 crime bill that put 100,000 more police on streets and decried "fewer and fewer cops on the beat."

In that book,"Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose," Biden claimed that Republicans, who traditionally embrace the principles of federalism, opposed federal funds for increased policing because they wanted such funds to be coming from state and local sources.

"And they argued that crime was uniquely local," Biden wrote. "I had to remind my colleagues that most local crime was caused by the drug epidemic, and drugs were a federal responsibility. It took some time, but I finally got real funding written into the crime bill I authored in 1994 that provided an additional one hundred thousand local cops. And it worked."

Yet last month, after feeling pressure from activists on his left, Biden told an interviewer he "absolutely" supported "redirecting" money away from policing. In the same interview, Biden decried the police acquisition of surplus military equipment, likening the use of armored vehicles to military invasion, saying police using such tools "become the enemy."

Then, last week, in his first interview as the Democratic nominee for president, Biden abruptly reversed field once again, as he pivoted for the general election campaign.

"I don't want to defund police departments," Biden told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts. "I think they need more help, they need more assistance." 

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News.

After the 2014 shooting death of two Brooklyn officers as they sat quietly in their police car, Biden said in his 2017 book that "I thought it was time to get back to the proven policy of investing in more and better-trained men and women on the beat."

Biden wanted to invest more in police because as crime dropped following the 1994 crime bill, "community policing became a victim of its own success," he wrote. "As crime went down, so did public pressure to focus on policing," Biden argued, leaving voters wondering, "Why spend federal money on local police when you can lower taxes on the wealthy instead?"

Saying that he "sometimes felt like a lonely voice" in calling for more federal funding for police, Biden lamented in his book, "There were fewer and fewer cops on the beat, with the predictable consequence of increasingly strained relations between the police and the black community."

These zigzags and inconsistencies in the Biden and Democratic Party positions on policing are likely a key reason why police unions nationwide have begun to officially endorse Biden's fall opponent, President Trump.

The Trump campaign is signaling it plans to use "law and order" messaging to draw a contrast with Biden. That includes Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished firearms to protect themselves from confrontational protesters. The McCloskeys were given a speaking slot on the opening night of this week's Republican National Convention.