Addressing the Democratic Party’s Relationship With Law Enforcement.
Their ties to the police might explain their hesitancy to take bold action.
After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis police department sparked what has become the largest civil rights movement in history, a significant portion of not just the American people but much of the world has been wondering what action, if any, the government will take to combat the systemic racism and police brutality that continuously plagues our communities. In response to Floyd’s murder, calls to defund the police have grown louder, with varying conversations concerning what that could potentially mean. While some say it simply means re-allocating the bloated police budgets to things like healthcare, social work, and education, others are in favor of reimagining what policing in America looks like all together.
Either way, presumptive democratic nominee Joe Biden and the leadership of the democratic party have made it expressly clear they’re having none of it.
To be sure, they have called for “reform”. Reform, it’s worth noting, that Joe Biden plans to achieve by adding an additional $300 million dollars in funding for local police departments. Of course, Biden has been eager to appear to be on the side of law enforcement agencies in the past as well.
Nathan McDermott and Em Steck with CNN write:
“Biden’s recent calls for reforming the nation’s police come after decades spent establishing himself in the US Senate from 1973 to 2009 as a staunch ally of police unions and the rank-and-file officers they represented.
For more than 15 years as a senator, Biden was one of the chief proponents of a Police Officer’s Bill of Rights measure, which was supported by police unions but faced sharp opposition from the nation’s police chiefs, including the National Association of Police Chiefs, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It also received condemnation from municipal organizations such as the National League of Cities and The United States Conference of Mayors.
Supporters of the bill, including Biden, said it provided a necessary and uniform set of protections for police officers in the face of internal investigations. Biden included language in the bill that indicated it would not apply to investigations into criminal activity committed by police officers, but experts and critics say that the legislation would have made all departmental misconduct allegations more difficult to investigate.
…The Biden campaign declined to answer whether Biden still supports a Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.”
Unfortunately, this should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched Joe Biden’s decades long legislative career come to the forefront over the past year in particular. During the course of the democratic primary, one aspect of his record that garnered some of the most intense scrutiny and unwanted attention was the 1994 Crime Bill that the former senator now infamously helped write and push in to law. While many of us already know of its devastating and undeniably racist impact on communities of color all across the country, it’s worth noting that the COPS program implemented after the bill was signed in to law also resulted in the escalation of the militarization of SWAT teams even in small town departments.
When it comes to the democratic party overall, as is so often the case the explanations for their (in)actions can be tied to money. In the case of law enforcement the answer is no different. Opensecrets detailed how police unions and PACs have been donating to politicians since the 1994 crime bill, writing:
Since the 1994 election cycle, 55 police union and law enforcement PACs have donated over $1.1 million to congressional campaigns, more than a third of which has gone to current members of congress. Funds spread to both sides of the aisle, especially to those in prominent positions and with influence in the House Law Enforcement Caucus. Another $9 million in itemized contributions come from those listing current or retired law enforcement positions as their profession since 1990.
Current and retired law enforcement officers have given $1.5 million so far this election cycle, during which over $2 billion has been contributed by individuals across congressional and presidential races.
The largest recipient of police union funding in Congress is Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), the Democratic co-chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus. He has received over $43,000 from police unions and law enforcement PACs since 2004.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) follows, with $35,500 from police union and law enforcement PACs since 2005. Hoyer is now leading the call for an early return to session to enact police reform. After donating $5,000 to his reelection campaign in 2018, the National FOP released a statement saying “his office regularly reaches out to the FOP to seek our input on legislation touching on law enforcement, labor, and criminal justice issues. His ‘open door’ policy to the FOP is invaluable when moving bills through the House.”
It should come as no surprise that the democratic party feels at least somewhat protective over law enforcement. Even putting aside the money given over the years, the culture in the United States has all too often been one of reverence when it comes to the police. The democratic party hasn’t exactly been an embodiment of strength in recent years, and bowing down to the police is simply par for the course. Lets not forget that just days ago in Seattle, even after the democratic mayor banned the use of tear gas for the time being, the police department still felt it acceptable to gas an entire crowd.
Clearly, we find ourselves in a situation that voting alone simply will not fix. If we want any meaningful legislative actions to come from this, then it’s vital for these protests to continue. While the media may be reporting on them less frequently I’m conscious of the fact that they are still happening and I remain hopeful that it stays that way. Holding the democratic party accountable on all levels of government throughout the country will be vital especially when it comes to this, and we can’t let them water down the necessary change.