One year after President Biden used the State of the Union address to celebrate billions in federal funds to fight crime, the president struck a different tone this week after yet another person was killed at the hands of law enforcement. Biden said in his annual address to Congress that it was time to “finish the job on police reform.” He said, “When police officers or police departments violate the public trust, they must be held accountable. All of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment.” Still, but many of his efforts to overhaul policing have been incomplete, says the New York Times. Biden, who has deep ties to police unions, has tried to strike a balance on police reform as Republicans accuse his administration of being soft on crime. He has rejected calls by some in his party to “defund the police,” instead calling on state and local governments to use money from the American Rescue Plan to hire more police officers and bolster enforcement.
Biden has made some progress on reform. He has restricted the transfer of military equipment local police can receive from the federal government, an effort started by the Obama administration but reversed under the Trump administration. He directed each federal law enforcement agency to restrict chokeholds and no-knock warrants, while ordering agencies to establish new use-of-force standards under an updated Justice Department policy. The White House is hoping it can persuade state and local departments to adopt new policies by leveraging millions of dollars of discretionary grants. The administration will prioritize issuing the funds to departments that revise their use-of-force policies. Many of Biden and congressional Democrats’ most ambitious goals are still in progress, if not hopelessly stalled. Abdullah Hasan, a White House spokesman, pushed back against the idea that Biden was slow to enact police reform, saying that he reformed “policing practices for over 100,000 federal officers” and called “for meaningful reforms at state and local levels that only Congress can deliver.” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Judiciary Committee chairman, has begun talks with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), top Republican on the committee, about a police reform bill. Durbin believes the Senate should negotiate a deal to improve policing even if House Republicans are opposed.