Sen. Bernie Sanders is making clear that he doesn’t support defunding or abolishing police departments – but instead wants more training and better pay for police officers as part of his push for criminal justice reform.
In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, the progressive independent lawmaker from Vermont said “do I think we should not have police departments in America? No, I don’t. There’s no city in the world that does not have police departments.”
But Sanders – who in April ended his second straight bid for the Democratic presidential nomination – emphasized that he’s calling for “for police departments that have well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals. And, too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training—and I want to change that.”
The populist senator stressed that he’s also pushing “for the transformation of police departments into—understanding that many police departments and cops deal every day with issues of mental illness, deal with issues of addiction, and all kinds of issues which should be dealt with by mental-health professionals or others, and not just by police officers.
“I think we want to redefine what police departments do, give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined. So I do believe that we need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments. Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree."
Many activists protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police have called for defunding police departments as part of their push for social justice, joined by some Democratic lawmakers.
But House and Senate Democratic leaders didn’t include a push to defund the police in a sweeping measure they unveiled on Monday that aims to end police brutality and hold law enforcement more accountable.
And former Vice President Joe Biden – the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee – said Monday that while he’s strongly pushing for law enforcement reforms, he doesn’t back the calls to defund the police.
Sanders – who backed Biden a week after suspending his presidential campaign in April – once again emphasized in the New Yorker article that his jobs right now are “to see that (President) Trump is defeated and that I move Biden in as progressive a way as I can.”