“I don’t want to defund police departments. I think they need more help, they need more assistance,” Biden told ABC News for a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday that also includes Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Biden accused the president of proposing cuts to programs that support local police, in sharp contrast to the Republican incumbent’s campaign-trail rhetoric.
Harris also stressed that voters should watch the president’s actions rather than listen to his words.
“There is so much about what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth that is designed to distract the American people from what he is doing,” Harris told ABC.
Instead of slashing funding, police departments should focus on forcing out officers who abuse their authority, the former vice president said.
“There are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out,” Biden told interviewer Robin Roberts.
Racial injustice protesters across the country have been calling for the defunding of police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death in police custody in Minneapolis and other cases of alleged police brutality.
Biden told Roberts that if elected president he would call for national standards for police departments and would make police misconduct records more easily accessible for public scrutiny.
He said Trump plans to cut “half a billion dollars of local police support,” referring to proposed cuts to a federal program aimed at hiring more local officers. Biden said he would call for more resources and social service support for police.
“We have to make it clear that this is about protecting neighborhoods, protecting people, everybody across the board,” he said.
“The only guy that actually put in a bill to actually defund the police is Donald Trump,” Biden added, after defending the 1994 crime bill he backed while a U.S. senator from Delaware. That legislation, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, called for community-based policing efforts — but has been criticized for leading to mass incarceration of African Americans and other minorities.
“Everybody forgets a third of that bill that I wrote was to put more cops in the street, not in their automobiles, but getting out and knowing the community — knowing who owns the local grocery store, knowing everybody in the community, and crime will drop,” he said.
While Biden has expressed support for redirecting police funds, neither he nor Trump has specifically called for “defunding” the police.