Some Democrats Divided Over ‘Defunding The Police’ Movement

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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Prominent Democratic lawmakers are divided on efforts to defund the police following national outrage over the death of George Floyd.

Protests around the country have raised calls for states to defund police departments. Roughly two-thirds of Americans generally disagree with the idea, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday, while 55% of Democrats agree.

Overall, some Democrats have voiced support for the movement, but others have spoken up and said they disagree.

“Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” Andrew Bates, the rapid response director for former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said in a statement earlier in June. “He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain.”

“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden also said during an interview with CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness, and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”

Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said June 7 that while he understands the “sentiment and the substance” behind the call to defund police, it isn’t a phrase he would use. Similarly, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams echoed Biden when asked about the movement.

“We are being drawn into a false choice idea,” Abrams said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “The reality is we need two things. We’ll use different language to describe it, but, fundamentally, we must have reformation and transformation.”

While Biden does not back defunding the police, others have disagreed. Part of this appears to be due to differing opinions on what defunding the police actually means. (RELATED: DENNARD: When You Defund The Police, You Destabilize Urban Communities)

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, for example, appeared to be a fan of the movement. She said that the idea of defunding the police is typically misunderstood and it would not mean “that the community is not going to be kept safe” during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I would simply say, as I have always said, nobody is going to defund the police,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said on the same show, according to Vox. “We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do. The fact of the matter is, the police have a role to play. What we have got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in.”

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a similar route.

“‘Defund’ means that Black & Brown communities are asking for the same budget priorities that White communities have already created for themselves: schooling > police,etc,” according to Ocasio-Cortez. “People asked in other ways, but were always told ‘No, how do you pay for it?’ So they found the line item.”

Many more Democrats have tried to sidestep the movement altogether, the Washington Post reported.

“It wasn’t expressly to debate the ‘Defund the Police’ movement, but that hung over the hearing: Republicans brought up the movement repeatedly, while Democrats studiously avoided it,” WaPo wrote regarding Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting. “While there are some activists who would like to see the complete eradication of law enforcement in some communities, it is not accurate to say that this is top Democrats’ stance.”