Biden says the answer ‘is not to defund the police,’ but to invest in law enforcement

Biden says ‘too many’ family members ‘have gotten the phone call lately’ saying an officer has been shot

President Biden, during an event at the New York Police Department on Thursday, said “the answer is not to defund the police,” but instead, to provide the tools and funding for law enforcement officials to be “partners” and “protectors” in the community.

The president and Attorney General Merrick Garland met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul at the NYPD headquarters Thursday to discuss ways federal, state and local law enforcement officials can work together to quickly take shooters off the streets and combat gun violence.

During the event, Biden thanked the NYPD force and their spouses.

“Every time you pin that shield on, walk out the door, you’re worried about getting a phone call – too many have gotten the phone call lately,” Biden said. “Every day in this country, 316 people are shot, 106 killed, there have been six NYPD victims of gun violence so far just this year.”

The president’s trip to New York City on Thursday after thousands of uniformed police officers from across the nation traveled to Manhattan to pay their respects to fallen NYPD Detectives Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, who were shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call last month.

“Enough is enough because we know we can do things about this,” Biden said. “You know, Mayor Adams, you and I agree.”

“The answer is not to abandon our streets. That’s not the answer,” Biden continued. “The answer is to come together, police and communities building trust and making us all safer.”

He added: “The answer is not to defund the police. It is to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors.”

Biden doubled down on that point, noting that they are “not about defunding.” 

“We’re about funding and providing the additional services you need beyond someone with a gun strapped to their shoulder,” Biden said. “We need more social workers, mental health workers. We need more people who, when you’re called on these scenes and someone is about to jump off a roof, it’s not just someone standing with a weapon – it is someone who also knows how to talk to people, talk them down.”

Biden said that government officials “can’t expect” police officers “to do every single solitary thing.”

“It needs to be done to keep a community safe, it’s time to find community policing to protect and serve the community,” Biden said.

The Biden administration on Thursday morning rolled out a strategy to stop the flow of guns, bolster law enforcement and increase funding for community policing, which Biden elaborated on during remarks at the NYPD HQ.

Senior administration officials said the strategy builds on steps the president announced in June 2021, which were intended to stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence; support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to address violent crime; invest in evidence-based community violence interventions, expanded summer programming, employment opportunities and other services and support for teenagers and young adults; and provide help for formerly incarcerated individuals to “successfully reenter their communities.”

As part of the strategy, the Justice Department announced a new directive to every U.S. attorney’s office nationwide to “increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies.”

A senior administration official said the Justice Department will work with state and local law enforcement to address the “most significant drivers of violence in each district,” including to “get repeat gun violence offenders off our streets.”

The Justice Department is also expected to “crack down on the “Iron Pipeline,” a reference to the illegal flow of guns sold in the south and transported up the East Coast and found at crime scenes in cities from Baltimore to New York City.

The DOJ will also launch a “National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative,” which officials say will “train a national cadre of prosecutors and disseminate investigation and prosecution tools to help bring cases against those who use ghost guns to commit crimes.” 

The Biden administration last year first took aim at “ghost guns” and modified firearms, which are homemade firearms without serial numbers that make it difficult for law enforcement to determine where, by whom, or when they were manufactured and to whom they were sold.

“The president is committed to serving as a strong partner for communities on the front lines of the fight against crime,” the White House said, noting that the American Rescue Plan provides “historic levels of funding” for cities and states so that they can “put more cops on the beat and invest in community-based violence prevention and intervention programs.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Biden also called on Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement on the FY22 appropriations budget, which includes half a billion dollars in new funding for “proven strategies” officials say they “know will reduce gun crime.”

The proposal includes a $300 million increase to expand accountable community policing through the COPS Hiring Program and $200 million for evidence-based community violence interventions.

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