Joe Biden’s campaign has made it clear that the former vice president does not support the campaign to “defund the police.” On Wednesday night, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah tried to see if he could get him there.
“You know, many activists and organizers have come out saying, there have been repeated attempts to reform many police departments,” Noah said. “Were it not for civilian cameras, we wouldn’t know the truth oftentimes.” As police departments continue to be “contradicted” by video evidence, the host asked Biden directly, “If you were to become president, do you think that there would be a world where defunding the police would be the solution?”
“Well I think there are a lot of changes they can take place, period, without having to defund the police completely,” Biden replied, seeming to make the same conflation that those on the right have been making between defunding and abolishing police departments.
“I don’t think the police should be defunded,” the Democratic presidential candidate said definitively. “But I think that conditions should be placed upon them where departments are having to take significant reforms.” He cited a “national use of force standard” and mandatory reporting of misconduct to the Justice Department as two examples of changes he would make.
Biden went on to push back on defunding the police by saying that he doesn’t believe his social worker daughter should have to respond to potentially dangerous situations that would normally be handled by armed cops.
Noah, in turn, asked Biden if he thinks there is anyone besides the police who should be responding to mental health crises, for instance. He pointed to the old adage, “If you’re a hammer, then everything is a nail.”
When Noah argued that it’s not police who are defusing situations in mental institutions, Biden replied, “No, but they are, though. They also use force in those mental institutions when someone’s out of hand. They put them in straitjackets.”
“It’s not that simple,” Biden said. “But that should be the objective. We should put the police second in those circumstances and not first.”
By the end of this section of his interview, Noah had more or less moved Biden to endorse what activists call “defund the police,” even if he wasn’t willing to use those words.
“I think we should turn over as much as we can to non-armed police officers to de-escalate things related to mental illness, homelessness and drug abuse,” Biden said.