President Biden on Friday lauded Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ pick of Keechant Sewell to be New York City police commissioner and called for “more money” for cops to fight increases in crime in major cities.
“You will be our next generation of elected officials, police chiefs, civil rights leaders leading the way. See what just happened in New York City? The first black woman the head of the police department,” Biden said to applause in a graduation speech at historically black South Carolina State University.
Sewell’s selection was first reported Tuesday by The Post.
Adams, a former cop, ran on a pro-police platform amid rising violent crime. Biden was initially silent on calls to defund the police last year amid national anti-police brutality protests, but he has recently called for local officials to use federal COVID-19 funds to boost policing.
Biden said Friday that police are “basically good people” and that law enforcement requires “more money,” not less.
“We don’t have to spend less money, we have to spend more money and police to give them the kind of help they genuinely need,” Biden said.
“Why is a police officer showing up to [a] suicide threat [where] someone’s going to jump off a building? We need more social workers there. We need more psychologists there. They need help. They’re basically good people who prevent violence in the first place.”
Biden added he was frustrated that Congress did not pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and blamed Republicans, who offered a less far-reaching package of reforms following Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“It’s not been passed in the Senate, but the fight’s not over despite Republican obstructionism,” Biden said. “We’ve made changes to the federal law enforcement policies that I have the ability to do with the stroke of a pen.”
He added: “The Justice Department has banned chokeholds, restricted no-knock warrants, required federal agents to wear and activate body cameras. It’s also ending the Justice Department use of private prisons, [and] rescinding previous administration requirements that US attorneys seek the harshest penalties. The Justice Department has opened a pattern and practice investigation into systemic misconduct in the police departments in Phoenix, Louisville, Minneapolis and Mount Vernon, New York. But we’re just getting started.”
Federal police reform legislation didn’t happen after Democrats balked at a GOP proposal from Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) that largely sought to incentivize local reforms rather than mandate them.
The Democratic policing bill would have restricted chokeholds and banned federal agents from conducting no-knock drug raids, curtailed transfers of military equipment to police, created an officer misconduct registry, ended qualified immunity from lawsuits and lowered the threshold to federally prosecute officers if they show “reckless disregard” for someone’s life.
The Republican police reform bill would have incentivized departments to restrict chokeholds, purchase and use body-worn cameras and keep information on use-of-force incidents and no-knock raids. It would have made lynching a federal crime, created a commission to study conditions of black men and boys and funded black police officer recruitment.
Biden authored harsh federal laws in the 1980s and ’90s that critics say “mass incarcerated” poor people and minorities — drawing scorn from leftists in his party and also from some Republicans, but he was conspicuously mum last year about calls to defund the police immediately after Floyd’s death.
The White House has increasingly urged local officials to re-fund police in response to mounting violent crime and theft in major cities.
On Thursday, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre lauded San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s decision to launch a policing crackdown in response to a surge in thefts and violent crime — a year after she reduced the local police budget by $120 million.
“If you’re a mayor or local leader and there is a crime problem in your community, we think you should step up and do something about it, just as many mayors are already doing,” Jean-Pierre said. “And we’ve made clear that we’re going to offer federal support to help you do that to keep communities safe.”