Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t joining the “defund the police” movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In a new interview with The New Yorker, Sanders (I-Vermont) was questioned about a letter he sent to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer arguing that cops should be paid higher wages, and whether he backs progressive calls “for defunding or abolishing the police.”
“Do I think we should not have police departments in America? No, I don’t. There’s no city in the world that does not have police departments,” the Democratic socialist responded.
“I didn’t call for more money for police departments. I called for police departments that have well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals. And, too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training — and I want to change that,” he continued.
“I also called for the transformation of police departments into — understanding that many police departments and cops deal every day with issues of mental illness, deal with issues of addiction, and all kinds of issues which should be dealt with by mental-health professionals or others, and not just by police officers.”
Sanders faced pushback from fellow lefties over the proposals he detailed to Schumer, but he stood by his position in the interview.
“I think we want to redefine what police departments do, give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined. So I do believe that we need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments,” he said, “Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree.”
Sanders’ former 2020 presidential primary rival Joe Biden also opposes defunding police departments and reallocating that money to social programs.
“Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” a Biden spokesperson said over the weekend.
Instead, the presumptive Democratic nominee supports “the urgent need for reform,” including funding for public schools, summer programs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, “so that officers can focus on the job of policing.”
“This also means funding community policing programs that improve relationships between officers and residents, and provides the training that is needed to avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths,” the statement read.
Biden also called for more funding, arguing that capital will be needed so police departments could diversify.
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