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Biden campaign opposes calls to 'defund the police'

Democratic presidential contender Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE's campaign said on Monday that the former vice president does not support calls to defund the police amid growing calls to do so by activists across the country.  

“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told reporters. 

"He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain," Bates added. "Biden supports the urgent need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing." 

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Calls to defund police have grown amid nationwide protests over the death last month of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. A majority of the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband the local police department and replace the office with what members have said will be a new model of public safety.

Democrats have largely embraced calls to reform police departments, but have stopped short of endorsing calls to defund police. Republicans have seized on the issue to argue Democrats are going too far with their calls for reforms. 

The Biden campaign said that Biden does support the funding of community policing programs that work to improve relations between police and communities, as well as diversifying police departments. He also backs the use of police body cameras. 

The campaign took a swipe at President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE's response to the issue, saying the administration has made reform difficult. 

"There are many police departments across the country who are seeking to realize these kinds of changes, but haven't had the resources to — and the Trump administration has in fact made obtaining those resources more difficult. This is at the core of Joe Biden's plan to bring transformative change to our criminal justice system," Bates said. 

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Trump campaign rapid response director Andrew Clark hit back at the statement on Twitter, saying that Biden is "too afraid of the far left to unequivocally say it himself on camera." 

Trump and Republicans have worked to promote a message of law and order amid the protests. The Trump campaign tied Biden to the calls to defund police departments on Monday. 

“As the protesters like to say, silence is agreement,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said on a conference call with reporters. “By his silence Joe Biden is endorsing defunding the police.”