Biden wants to strengthen police forces as the number of murders increases



WASHINGTON – President Biden said Wednesday that the states could draw up $ 350 billion in stimulus funds to aid law enforcement agencies and pledged to crack down on arms dealers who fail to do background checks as the White House tries to stop the alarming surge in murders to combat prices in the cities of America.

Mr Biden’s speech made it clear that he intends to move closer to crime prevention by investing in the police instead of defusing them – and getting involved in a national debate about whether or not the government is giving police authorities more resources the money to spend on mental health and other social causes should be on services instead.

The president tried to appeal on Wednesday, saying from the White House that “this is not the time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities”.

Under Mr Biden’s new plan, state and local governments are allowed to use their designated $ 350 billion in coronavirus aid towards programs such as hiring police officers at pre-pandemic levels, paying overtime for policing and helping community-based anti-violence groups use. City governments grappling with high crime rates can go further and hire more civil servants than they did before the pandemic.

The money is not new spending, but for the first time the government is encouraging states to use the funds to expand police and crime prevention efforts.

The funds can also be used for summer jobs for young people and organizations that aim to intervene with young people at risk before they engage in violence.

With his speech on Wednesday, Mr Biden aimed to blunt criticism from Republicans who say he is gentle on crime. But he also tried to bridge his party’s two flanks: center democrats, alarmed about the rise in urban crime, and progressives pushing systemic change in police departments long accused of racial discrimination.

Mr Biden also said he directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke arms dealers’ licenses “the first time they break federal law” by failing to conduct background checks.

Previously, sellers often received repeated warnings before their licenses were revoked. And in some cases, the ATF has been accused of overriding recommendations from their own inspectors and allowing sellers to keep their licenses.

“These dealers of death break the law for profit,” said Mr. Biden, who appeared next to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “They sell weapons that kill innocent people. It is wrong. It’s unacceptable. “

Mr Biden seized the moment to call on Congress to pass legislative measures that would close the background check loopholes, restrict offensive weapons and remove arms manufacturers’ immunity from legal proceedings.

“Guys, this shouldn’t be a red or blue topic,” said Mr Biden. “It’s an American problem. We’re not changing the constitution; we enforce it. “

Criminal justice and law enforcement experts said the federal government has limited resources to fight crime in American cities because local governments and law enforcement agencies bear primary responsibility.

However, they said helping states with additional funds and federal law enforcement in combating illicit arms sales is critical to reducing crime.

“It will help,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank. But, he warned, “if people look for a magical solution to violent crime, it won’t come from the federal government.”

The Biden administration also announced this week that the Department of Justice would deploy five “strike troops” to combat arms trafficking in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco area and Washington, DC

Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal National Police Order, said focusing on the arms trade is a “tried and true strategy”.

“The key is having the resources to keep it going over time,” said Mr. Pasco. “In order to achieve a lasting effect, you have to make a permanent effort.”

The total crime rate remained declining during the coronavirus pandemic, although homicides increased in almost every American city in 2020. In Chicago and several other cities, last year was the worst year for killings since the mid-1990s.

Mr Biden has taken a cautious line on crime, trying to offset calls for a law enforcement overhaul without alienating moderate voters.

He included $ 2.1 billion in his fiscal 2022 budget proposal for the Department of Justice to combat gun violence, up $ 232 million from the previous year. Funding includes grants for local governments, background check improvement programs, and other crime-fighting strategies.

White House officials said the measures announced on Wednesday should build on steps the government took in April following two mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. Mr. Biden had directed the Justice Department to curb the proliferation of “ghost rifles” made from non-serial numbered pieces from kits that can be purchased without background checks.

But the government is still faced with calls to pass a meaningful gun law that would restrict offensive weapons. And Mr Biden’s candidate to head the ATF has yet to be confirmed – a significant hurdle.

If confirmed, Mr. Biden’s candidate David Chipman would only be the ATF’s second permanent director since the position was confirmed by the Senate 15 years ago. He would inherit an agency seriously worn out by the National Rifle Association’s campaign to undermine the office.

The Republicans, who have rallied “Defund the Police” to attack Democrats for being weak in public safety, increased criticism on Wednesday. Mr Biden has said that he is against the defusion of the police.

“President Biden’s failure to hold his own party accountable for defining the police is putting communities at risk and sparking a surge in crime across the country,” said Emma Vaughn, press secretary for the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Biden has a long history in criminal law. As a senator, he campaigned for a 1994 crime bill that many experts say fueled mass incarcerations, which raised questions during his presidential campaign about his commitment to overhauling the criminal justice system. The government continued to defend some aspects of the bill that banned offensive weapons and supported drug courts for first-time offenders.

A bipartisan compromise on a national police overhaul has stalled in Congress despite Mr Biden urging lawmakers to reach an agreement by May 25, the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last summer.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the president is trying to strengthen the police force while pushing reform efforts.

“He doesn’t feel like they’re contradicting them,” Ms. Psaki said Tuesday, adding that gun-violence residents of American cities want to hear what the president is doing to tackle crime in their communities.

This belief is shared by Quentin James, who heads an organization dedicated to the election of African American officials.

“Black people are nervous about the rise in crime and how to deal with it,” said Mr. James, president of Collective PAC. But he said he wanted to “deal with the fact that we don’t just double the police budget”.

Officials across the country are doing the best they can to counter the rise in crime. In the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, Eric Adams, a former police officer, has a significant head start after making public safety a focus of his campaign.

Washington Democrats made a point of channeling money into the party’s election to occupy Home Secretary Deb Haaland’s seat in a special election in New Mexico when Republicans accused her of being gentle with law and order.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she is making summer violence reduction a priority by focusing resources on more than a dozen criminal areas in the city.

In Jackson, Miss., A surge in violent crime has fueled anger and resentment over feelings of neglect and has led city leaders and activists to seek investment in resources beyond policing.

Over the years, white residents fled, leaving behind a largely African American city hungry for resources. Local residents point out the city’s streets so littered with craters that they have destroyed tires, and the weakened water infrastructure that led to a crisis that left local residents under a boiling water indicator for weeks. Crime, activists said, was another outgrowth of the ingrained poverty and lack of opportunity that permeated Jackson.

“Many of these communities need healing,” said Terun Moore, director of Strong Arms at JXN, a grassroots nonprofit that seeks to curb violence by diverting young people to after-school programs and work opportunities. “You need some love. You need a lot of restorative work. “

Rick Rojas has contributed to coverage from Nashville, and Katie Benner from Washington.



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