U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sunday that police officers must deliver both effective crime deterrence and equal justice in a message that balances two fraught political priorities as his law-enforcement reforms have stalled.
A memorial service at the U.S. Capitol for 563 officers who died in the line of duty over the past year, Biden said he would not give any new indications on how he would resolve a delay in police reform aimed at holding officers to a higher standard after high-profile killings of unarmed Black people.
He said there was no tension between reform of law enforcement and deterring crime because he answered swirling concerns about rising street violence in an election year.
Folks, the answer is not to abandon the streets, it's not to choose between safety and equal justice, Biden said.
We should agree that it is not to defund the police, it's to fund the police. They need to get the training they need to protect their communities and themselves, and restore trust. The incident came as authorities investigated the shooting of 10 people in a Black neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo, New York, as a hate crime. Biden said that we must work together to address the hatred that remains a stain on the soul of America.
It is just two years shy of the anniversary of George Floyd'sFloyd's killing in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, 2020, which inspired mass protests around the country.
Biden promised Floyd's family and voters that he would take action, but bipartisan congressional talks on a bill stalled last year. A Democrat-backed bill named for Floyd that passed the House of Representatives in 2020 would have limited officers' use of chokeholds and hold them to higher legal standards for rights violations.
Biden said that we haven't gotten there yet. We need to do that to strengthen public trust and public safety.
He said police groups have played a constructive role in reform discussions and he is committed to being your partner as I always have. Biden's comments show the balancing act as the country heads into November's election for control of Congress. His party needs strong support from communities outraged by police violence and those frightened by crime.
After months of internal negotiations, officials have said that Biden aides are drafting a narrower executive order on policing that the president hopes to sign soon.
Biden has been a loyal ally to law enforcement, dating back to his days in the Senate when he crafted a 1994 crime bill with their help.
His support for broad reforms following the murder of Floyd by an officer in 2020 created some tension with police unions opposed to some of the reforms promoted by Democrats. Those groups include the National Fraternal Order of Police FOP, which sponsored Sunday's event.
The National Peace Officers Memorial Service was founded in 1982 as a small gathering of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. It has turned into a series of events, attracting thousands of officers and the families of victims to the nation's capital each year.
The number of officers dying at work has gone up sharply during the COVID 19 epidemic, according to data from police groups.