President-elect Joe Biden, who argued for police reform during the campaign — but never got the backing of police organizations at the ballot box — is now looking for a middle ground on the contentious issue.
His transition team started with meetings with police officials, the Washington Post reported, including Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, an organization that twice endorsed President Donald Trump.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship with Biden,” Pasco told the Post.“He looks for middle ground and consensus where he can find it. He understands the dynamics of policing today probably as well as any elected politician.”
Terry Cunningham, deputy executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and another attendee at a Biden transition meeting, agreed.
“We think he’s uniquely positioned” to connect law enforcement officials and groups pushing for police reform, he told the Post.
“Biden does still have the respect of the police,” he added. “I worked with him a lot as vice president. He connected well with law enforcement and civil rights groups.”
The Post noted Biden has shifted his stance on some criminal justice issues, now wanting to cut the number of people in prison and calling for an end to the death penalty.
“His views have evolved, and they’ve evolved with the times,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based group that works with police, told the Post. “You can’t pretend that things haven’t changed. You can’t pretend that there isn’t a need for reform.”
Biden has rejected defund-the-police backers, and is calling for a $300 million investment in the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office to help departments get resources, the Post reported.
The Biden administration is also expected to return to the practice of investigating local police departments for possible constitutional violations — a practice that was curtailed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Trump administration’s early weeks, the Post reported.
Thomas Manger, a retired police chief in Montgomery County, Md., said “a lot of police officers appreciate the fact that the Trump administration has been supportive of law enforcement.”
But he said it was so focused on supporting police that it did not “make substantive steps” in areas needing improvement.
“You’ve got to have everybody at the table, to have all points of view, see what’s thoughtful and substantive and have policing be such that people trust what the police do and that the cops are well-intentioned,” he told the Post.