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Joe Biden Declares Definitively, "I Do Not Support Defunding Police

The defunding of police departments, a rallying cry among some protesters in recent demonstrations, has become a hot-button issue in the U.S. and has led to some division within the Democratic party.
During an interview Tuesday night, Biden said there is "absolutely" systemic racism in law enforcement, arguing that he believes the problem exists "across the board."
Yet, in an op-ed published a few days ago in The USA Today, Biden declared definitively, "I do not support defunding police."
He then stated he is proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in America.

On the same day, Trump tweeted, "This Radical Left agenda is not going to happen. Sleepy Joe Biden will be (already is) pulled all the way Left. Many, like Minneapolis, want to close their Police Departments. Crazy!"
Trump, the "Law and Order" candidate, has frequently tried to tie Biden to the far-left wing of the Democratic party, with respect to police defunding. A television ad, riddled with lies, is a typical example of Trump misinformation tactics...

Biden has also faced some criticism from progressives within his own party amid a rising tide of outrage aimed at police brutality and systemic racism. Calls to "defund the police" have picked up considerable steam among progressives in the wake of nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department and invest in community-based public safety programs following calls from activists. Similarly, political pressure to hold officers accountable for perceived misconduct has been ratcheted up in recent days. A New York City police officer was charged with misdemeanor assault after being recorded on video shoving a 20-year-old woman to the ground and cursing at her during a protest against police brutality in Brooklyn. Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged for the first time to cut the city's police funding.

Critical Quote from Joe Biden:

"I've long been a firm believer in the power of community policing - getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they serve and protect. Every single police department should have the money they need to institute real reforms like adopting a national use of force standard, buying body cameras, and recruiting more diverse police officers."

The Trump campaign has a problem.

Trump has stated on live television, "Joe Biden's supporters are fighting to defund police departments. Violent crime has exploded. You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
Biden has firmly rejected calls from left-wing activists to "defund police." But clearly the Trump campaign wants to tag him with that slogan. So it produced an ad that slickly tries to get around this uncomfortable fact. The Trump campaign must think the effort is a winner. Ben Taber, an account manager at Advertising Analytics, says that as of July 13, the Trump campaign had spent $6.7 million placing the ad on network television and on local stations in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico and Michigan.

The Facts... The ad is classic misinformation.

The scenes of mayhem in the ad come from some of the recent looting that took place after George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis. These images are technically Donald Trump's America, not Joe Biden's. But leave that aside.
The ad is framed around an unanswered phone at a police station. "You have reached the 9-1-1 police emergency line," a voice says on an answering machine. "Due to defunding of the police department, we're sorry but no one is here to take your call. If you are calling to report a rape, please press one. To report a murder, press two. To report a home invasion, press three. For all other crimes, leave your name and number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days. Goodbye."

Toward the end of this hellish fantasy, the text reads: "Joe Biden's supporters are fighting to defund police departments. Violent crime has exploded. You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
Note the "Joe Biden's supporters"? The Trump campaign can't tag Biden, so it tries guilt by association.
The line about supporters is attributed to a Fox News report on June 6. But it turns out the article is only about one supporter: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The article says she wants to reduce the $6 billion budget of the New York City Police Department. But it also notes that her position is not in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Among other Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.) have not supported defunding the police.

The Trump ad first appeared July 2. The Trump campaign says the interview Biden had with activist Ady Barkan - and an edited version posted by Now This on July 8 - has bolstered their case.
During the interview, Barkan said, "We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to the police and redirect some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing."
He asked Biden, "Are you open to that kind of reform?" In the video, Biden replies, "I've proposed that kind of reform." At another point, Barkan again asks: "But so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?" The video shows Biden saying: "Yes, absolutely."

In an audio tape of the full conversation, Biden's responses were much more nuanced. The Now This video does not include Biden adding that his response was not the same as "defunding all the police." He also speaks about increasing funding for mental health, which is different from saying he would fund mental health aid out of redirected funds from the police. In effect, Biden appears to say he would condition aid on police reforms as an incentive on the one hand, while simultaneously providing additional resources for mental health, homelessness and other kinds of community support. (A Biden campaign aide confirms this is Biden's position.)

Portion of Biden interview with activist Ady Barkan

Here's the transcript of the key portions of the interview that were snipped.

BARKAN: Are you open to that kind of reform?
BIDEN: I've proposed that kind of reform. And by the way, the idea, though, that's not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police. There are certain things you cannot send. My daughter, who has her master's degree in social work, she, she is one who engages in dealing with all those problems, many of which you, you talk about. When you have - I've been very involved in holding over 1,000 hours of hearings on violence against women. And so many women, women are being killed by their, their spouses and/or their so-called lovers. When you get a call to a third-story walk-up in a domestic dispute, you can't send a social worker, because a social worker may get shot, too. So what happens - you, what do you do? You can send along a social worker with a police officer. We need significantly more help. That's why I call for significant increases in funding for mental health clinics and mental health providers. We are desperately in need of that now.
[Biden continues talking, some of which appears in the video, such as when he advocates for having "access to the records of police when they had misconduct charges" and dismisses the need for police to have access to surplus military equipment.]

BARKAN: But so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?
BIDEN: Yes, absolutely. And by the way, not just redirect, condition them. If they don't eliminate chokeholds, they don't get Byrne grants. If they don't do the following, they don't get any help. If they don't do - because you know as well as I do, the vast majority of all police departments are funded by the locality, funded by the municipality, funded by the state. It's only the federal government comes in on top of that. And so it says you want help, you have to do the following reforms, you have to make sure you have no-knock warrants eliminated. If you have them, you don't get Byrne grants. If you have them, boom. And one of the things that we also need to be doing is fundamentally changing the way - and I've been pushing it for years - changing the way we deal with our prison system.

Update, July 14: After this fact check appeared, a reader in Wisconsin contacted us to say the ad had been updated, apparently based on the Barkan interview. Rather than refer to Biden supporters, the ad now says: "Joe Biden supports defunding the police." The citation is now: "Joe Biden comments, 7/8/20." Clearly that's a reference to the Barkan interview. As we have shown, Biden did not say he supports defunding the police during that interview.

The verdict - PANTS ON FIRE