ATLANTA — County sheriffs in Georgia publicly condemned Democrat plans for police reform Tuesday after President-elect Joe Biden told a group of civil rights leaders to avoid discussing police reform until after Georgia’s January 5 Senate runoff election.
The sheriffs indicated that the “defund the police” movement is central to Democrat plans for police reform. They warned that if Democrat candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win their runoff races, Republicans will lose their Senate majority and police will thereby lose their last line of defense for funding.
Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway, speaking at a press conference Tuesday at Liberty Plaza, said, “All we’ve heard for months from the Democrat Party is ‘defund the police.’”
“Now I understand Joe Biden’s talking the other way now, not wanting to talk about defunding the police until after this election, but that doesn’t change anything,” Conway continued. “The program by the Democrat Party has been to defund the police, to change the basic concept of police work.”
Biden told a group of civil rights leaders last week that he thought they should not “get too far ahead” of themselves with police reform messaging before the Georgia runoffs, according to audio obtained by the Intercept.
Biden said to the group:
I also don’t think we should get too far ahead of ourselves on dealing with police reform in that, because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police.’ Anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing, which I promise you, will occur. Promise you. Just think to yourself and give me advice whether we should do that before January 5.
Republican organizations working to elect incumbent Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) sounded alarms over Biden’s comments.
“They’re desperate to hide their ‘defund the police’ agenda, but Georgians know the truth that Warnock, Ossoff, and their backers in DC are too radical,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said in a statement.
“Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock share the same misguided vision for our country, and defunding the police is at the very top of their list,” Georgia GOP spokeswoman Abigail Sigler said in a statement. “Georgians who stand with the rule of law must support Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. The safety of our communities depends on it.”
Some Democrats throughout this year have embraced the idea of defunding the police, while others have avoided it. Earlier this month, for instance, former President Barack Obama distanced himself from the “defund the police” slogan, while “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) pushed back that it is “not a slogan but a policy demand.”
Ossoff’s and Warnock’s campaign policies do not outright call to defund the police; however, Ossoff has said that police funding should be “on the line” and Warnock has said “we need to reimagine policing.” Both candidates have called for “demilitarizing” police departments and increasing officer accountability.
Conway, who has worked in policing for more than 40 years and plans to retire this year, said, “I’ve led a couple of agencies for a long time, and I’ve never had the money that I felt like I needed for training, hiring, and retention of police officers. So talking about defunding police is just insanity.”
Conway continued, “It’s only common sense that you can’t make a better product … by cutting down on labor cost, training, and material. We have to have more money for police if we want better police. It’s crazy talk to say you want to defund police. The country will be less safe.”
Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds also denounced Democrat police reform plans during the press conference. Their full remarks can be heard here.
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