“Defund the police” has become one of the most important mantras for the protesters demanding justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Protesters in Minneapolis, for instance, ostracized Mayor Jacob Frey after he admitted that he did not support the full abolition of the police. “Go home, Jacob, go home!” they shouted.
Minneapolis’s city council, unlike its mayor, seems to like the idea. Council members are expected to vote to dismantle the police department and “replace it with a transformative new model of public safety,” according to Council President Lisa Bender. It’s unclear what that would look like, but there are plenty of alternative models out there; municipalities should absolutely seize the moment as an opportunity to make policing less costly, deadly, and indifferent toward people’s rights.
But while many progressives are are now squarely behind the idea of defunding the police, the Democratic presidential nominee is not. Indeed, he wants to give cops more money.
“Vice President Joe Biden does not believe that police should be defunded,” a Biden campaign spokesperson announced in a statement.
On the contrary, Biden’s presidential platform would distribute an additional $300 million in federal grants via the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which makes it possible for municipalities all over the country to hire additional police officers. The COPS program was a result of the 1994 crime bill spearheaded by Biden, who then was a senator. It is largely responsible for producing one of the most pernicious trends in modern policing: the rise of cops in schools. As Tyler Koteskey and I observed in a 2017 Reason article, COPS grants have helped place more than 6,000 cops in K–12 institutions.
The unfortunate result, which might have been anticipated, is that school disciplinary matters are increasingly handled by law enforcement rather than counselors, teachers, and principles. This is the school-to-prison pipeline at work, and the Democratic candidate for president wants to increase its budget.