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Police Reform 'Stagnated' As Both Parties Back Officers

A few days after George Floyd was murdered two years ago, presidential hopeful Joe Biden spoke passionately about police reforms he said could not wait another month, let alone another election cycle: banning police chokeholds; rules for use of force; a review of every police department’s hiring, training and de-escalation practices.

“No more excuses,” Biden said, urging Congress to put a bill on then-President Trump’s desk within days. “No more delays.”

Two years later, as Biden sits at the presidential desk, his emphasis appears to be less on how quickly the nation’s police departments can be reformed than on how quickly they can add officers, reports the Washington Post.

The push to rehabilitate police departments has stagnated. A bill bearing Floyd’s name aimed at overhauling police practices died in the Senate. The administration has been mulling for months whether Biden should issue an executive order on police reform, leaving civil rights leaders frustrated at the delay and whether it will result in any enduring improvement.

Those who have pushed hardest for reforms worry about what they see as an about-face on equitable policing, as a surge in crime creates pressure on Biden and his party to stand unwaveringly with the police.

“We’re now contending with elected officials who are now defaulting to the same narrative that we know does not offer any solutions to the issues that we face, meaning it is a lot easier to just default to the knee-jerk ‘we need more police on the streets’ argument,” said Amara Enyia of the Movement for Black Lives. “It’s a reaction that takes absolutely no thought and that doesn’t take into account what the research shows about the conditions that create safety. But it’s just something that fits neatly within a campaign cycle.”

Republicans want to put Democrats on the defensive by branding them as a party that stands for defunding the police and tolerating chaos and violence. Some midterm election ads have sought to sway voters with images of violent protests, burning cities and brazen crimes.

During National Police Week this month, Biden’s public appearances focused on a pro-police message on three of four days.

Biden has not reversed himself on any specific policies, but his emphasis and rhetoric have shifted.

Tturning rhetoric into change has proved daunting, given the razor-thin Democratic majorities in Congress and a public increasingly spooked by rising crime. In 2021, a dozen major cities, including Louisville, Philadelphia and Portland, Or., set homicide records.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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