Liberal groups press Biden to adopt progressive policies on police reform

About 50 liberal groups have signed on to a letter warning presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that he could lose the November election to President Trump if he doesn’t adopt more progressive policing policies.

The letter, which is signed by leading national progressive groups, including the Working Families Party, Our Revolution and Black Voters Matter, urges Biden to adopt a 21-page policy proposal released by The Movement for Black Lives to promote reducing incarceration and scaling back police forces across the country.

The groups are also asking Biden to drop his recent proposal to add $300 million in funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which would hire and train additional police officers to patrol within the communities where they live.

“We make these demands first and foremost because we seek justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — as well as all the other Black lives lost — and policies like these are what justice looks like in practice,” the letter says.

“But we also make them with an eye toward the November election. … You cannot win the election without the enthusiastic support of Black voters, and how you act in this moment of crisis will play a big role in determining how Black voters — and all voters concerned with racial justice — respond to your candidacy. A ‘return to normalcy’ will not suffice,” they wrote.

The progressive groups were scathing in their assessment of Biden’s record on criminal justice issues.

“In the course of your political career, you have designed and endorsed policies that have significantly exacerbated these problems,” the letter states.

“As a Senator, you not only supported, but in many cases authored and championed laws that expanded mass incarceration, increased police powers, and exacerbated racial disparities in surveillance and sentencing. These laws … are a part of the history that has led us to this moment, and their ongoing fallout has contributed to the outpourings of grief and anger we are seeing today,” they wrote.

During the Democratic presidential primary, Biden’s rivals attacked his past record and rhetoric on race in an effort to cast him as out of step with the times.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) focused on Biden’s past support for a crime bill in the 1990s that led to mass incarceration of black people, with Booker at one point calling Biden the “architect of mass incarceration.”

Still, Biden won the Democratic nomination based on his overwhelming support from black voters, who rallied behind him at a key point in the race and delivered him resounding primary victories across the South.

Polls show Biden with overwhelming support from black voters in his match-up against Trump.

But the groups said that Biden has a “moral responsibility in this moment” to make up for the past policies he supported that they said “broke apart Black communities and robbed many young Black people of a future.”

Last week, Biden released a comprehensive plan to overhaul U.S. laws and policies around policing and jail sentencing.

The former vice president proposed ending cash bail, eliminating the death penalty, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, investing $1 billion in juvenile justice reforms and outlined policies that would make it easier for formerly incarcerated people to reintegrate into society.

However, his $300 million proposal to add to local police forces is opposed by many on the left at a time when progressives have adopted the slogan “Defund the Police” to push for nationwide reforms.

“Making amends for the harm you’ve caused is an important first step, but it is no longer enough,” they wrote. “We acknowledge that you’ve taken some positive positions — including calling for a federal ban on police chokeholds — but these too are far from sufficient. In order to rise to this occasion, you must put forward a transformative and comprehensive policing and criminal justice platform that shifts how we approach public safety and allows Black communities in particular to thrive.”

Tags Black voters Cory Booker Defunding police Democratic primary Donald Trump Joe Biden police reform presidential election

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