Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., made it clear on Sunday that despite the public rancor following the protests over the recent deaths of African-Americans involving law enforcement, Congress will not make moves to defund police departments.
Clyburn, the House majority whip, instead said he would push for a “reimagining” of law enforcement in the country.
“I would simply say, as I have always said, nobody is going to defund the police,” Clyburn said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Clyburn’s comment put him firmly in line with almost every Democrat in both chambers of Congress, as well as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. While top Democrats have called for major overhauls to police departments following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., among others, they have come out in force against defunding police departments entirely.
“We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing,” Clyburn said. “That is what we are going to do. The fact of the matter is, the police have a role to play. What we have got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in.”
The “Defund The Police” movement came to the forefront of the national conversation amid the protests following the deaths of Floyd and Taylor. The idea behind the movement has varied between completely abolishing police departments to relocating the amounts of funding many departments received to other social programs.
Groups like Black Lives Matter have argued it’s not necessarily about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They have said it’s time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. have needed, including better housing and education.
State and local governments spent some $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the economic-policy think tank Urban Institute.
“Why can’t we look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities, so people don’t have to be in the streets during a national pandemic?” Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Instead of defunding police departments, the House last week proposed a far-reaching overhaul of police procedures and accountability, saying their proposal would not eliminate police departments — a decision for cities and states — but establish new standards and oversight.
The Justice in Policing Act, the most ambitious law enforcement reform from Congress in years, confronted several aspects of policing that have come under strong criticism, as in-custody deaths have been captured on cellphone video and shared widely across the nation and around the world.
The package would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents and ban police chokeholds, among other changes.
It also would revise the federal criminal police misconduct statute to make it easier to prosecute officers involved in “reckless” misconduct and would change “qualified immunity” protections to enable damage claims more broadly against police in lawsuits.
In addition, the legislation would ban racial profiling, boost requirements for police body cameras and limit the transfer of military equipment to local jurisdictions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.