Biden says ‘we have to retrain’ police and hire social workers in crime spree

James Clyburn, Al Sharpton, Joe Biden
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., left, shakes hands with Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speak as The Rev. Al Sharpton looks on at the National Action Network South Carolina Ministers’ Breakfast, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Matt Rourke/AP

Biden says ‘we have to retrain’ police and hire social workers in crime spree

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President Joe Biden called for police reforms in a closing pitch to black voters as Democrats’ handling of rising crime threatens to hamstring candidates in pivotal races across the country.

Persuading voters that Democrats are best equipped to deal with crime has been an uphill climb, with Democrats struggling to distance themselves from the push to “defund” law enforcement that took hold after George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

Yet in an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton that aired Monday, Biden revived some of the polarizing rhetoric that Democrats have fought to escape.

“We have to retrain the way we train police,” Biden said during an appearance on Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton. “We have to train police to be able,” Biden cut himself off to add that police forces need “more social workers,” “more psychologists,” and “more people with mental health backgrounds.”

Biden also said every Republican in Congress voted against his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which kept “good cops on the beat” and sent cities and states billions of dollars for community programs aimed at slowing crime.

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The progressive “defund” movement has stayed a powerful cudgel against Democrats long after it gained national traction.

Republicans held a 13 percentage point advantage with voters in the midterm elections over their handling of crime, boosted by a quarter of Democrats. The figure included 25% of black voters and half of Latino and Asian Americans, according to a recent preelection memo by veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg. He said black voters ranked the issue nearly as high as the cost of living “in poll after poll.”

Greenberg, former President Bill Clinton’s pollster ahead of the 1994 Democratic collapse, said the only successful messages he tested were for boosting law enforcement as a priority and criticizing Democrats who have failed to address the issue.

A more explicit message to confront “the growing violent crime problem,” “rush” police, “get criminals into jail,” and disavow Democrats who have called for defunding law enforcement yielded even better performance.

Democrats are bracing for losses on Tuesday, including in blue enclaves that the party once viewed as safe. Violent crime rates in Democratic-run cities have surged in recent years, making the issue a top priority for many voters.

In New York, where Biden hit the campaign trail soon after recording the interview on Sunday, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) is facing a stronger-than-expected challenge from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) over her public safety record.

Hochul promised safer streets in a campaign advertisement that aired in the race’s final days after dismissing her opponent’s focus on crime during an earlier debate.

Democratic candidates in states that could decide control of Congress, such as Wisconsin and Georgia, are also fighting to overcome Republican messaging on the issue.

The interview comes as new polling shows Republicans increasing support among black and Latino voters compared to recent elections.

About 17% of black voters said they expect to vote Republican in the midterm elections, according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll. AP VoteCast had former President Donald Trump at 8% in 2020, with the exit polls at 12%.

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Just 6% backed Republican candidates in 2018, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

If this year’s forecast holds, it could indicate a “paradigm-shift election,” John Anzalone, Biden’s lead pollster in 2020, told the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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