President Biden, facing pressure to show he’s taking a tough approach to the rising murder rate, visited New York City’s police headquarters Thursday, stressing his support for law enforcement at a time when many liberals are calling for far-reaching police reforms. Biden was accompanied by New York Mayor Eric Adams, one of a group of newly elected mayors who are seeking to beef up policing in ways that depart from social justice rhetoric that dominated many big cities just two years ago, reports the Washington Post.
“Enough is enough,” Biden told police officers about the homicide trend. Later he added, “The answer is not to abandon our streets, the answer is to come together. The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to give you the tools and training and funding.” It was Biden’s most significant attempt to focus his presidency on an issue that’s been roiling the U.S. for two years and to rebut calls to “defund the police” that some Democrats believe contributed to their congressional losses in 2020.
Murders increased by about 6 percent in cities overall from 2020 to 2021, according AH Datalytics. Several cities have experienced double-digit increases, including Houston, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, De. Big-city mayors have been grappling with how to bulk up policing without the heavy-handed, sometimes lethal tactics that have provoked outrage. “The discussion of the summer of 2020 was an either-or — either you are a reformer or you’re an enforcer,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who was elected in 2019. “You fundamentally have to be able to do both now.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has sought a similar balance. She called for violent offenders to be jailed as they await court dates rather than being released with monitoring devices. “We can’t send a message to the community that if you’re charged with murder, if you’re charged with carjacking, if you’re charged with some other kind of violent crime, there’s no accountability,” she said. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was reelected in November in opposition a referendum to replace the police department, and he has launched a police recruitment drive. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens won last year after promising to hire 250 new police officers and go after violent gangs.