Fact Check: ‘Redirecting’ Police Funding is the Same as ‘Defund the Police’

biden mask
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

CLAIM: Joe Biden doesn’t want to abolish or defund the police; he just wants to redirect police funding to other uses.

VERDICT: Mostly false. Even many activists say defunding the police and redirecting police funding mean the same thing.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace generated buzz on Friday afternoon with the release of a clip from his White House interview with President Donald Trump, which will air in full on Sunday.

Wallace “fact-checked” Trump’s claim that Biden wants to abolish or defund the police:

Trump was incorrect about the “Biden-Sanders Unity” platform, which did not discuss defunding the police.

Moreover, the Biden campaign has said since June 8 that he opposes “defund the police.”

However, Trump correctly stated that many Democrats do wish to defund — or abolish — the police, and have taken steps to do so in many Democrat-run cities.

The Minneapolis City Council recently pledged unanimously to disband the city’s police force, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody. Teachers’ unions in Los Angeles have pushed the school board to abolish the L.A. School Police Department (which was ultimately cut 35%, prompting the department chief to resign).

Biden has joined the left in criticizing the police — and has been reluctant to defend them.

He recently said that police “become the enemy” when they use military equipment in performing their duties. And he suggested that police shared blame for the recent Black Lives Matter riots, saying that they had “escalate[d] tension.”

While Biden has said he does not want to “defund the police,” he has also said, as The Hill notes, that he wants to “re-direct” funding from policing to other priorities, like mental health, which some on the left have argued will be more effective in preventing crime.

This is also what some activists have tried to explain “defund the police” actually means.

The Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank, explained last month: “‘Defund the police’ means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. That’s it. It’s that simple.”

So when Biden claims he wants to re-direct police funding, that is what “defund the police” means to many Democrats.

We can see that the two ideas are actually equivalent by examining the prominent example of the Los Angeles Police Department. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in June — in the middle of a riot — that the city would be cutting the police budget by $150 million, more than 10% of the total. That money was to be put toward $250 million of spending within “communities of color.”

By investing in those communities, Garcetti said, the need for police would be reduced.

Garcetti was “re-directing” funding. But from the point of view of the LAPD, that is the same as “defunding” the police.

So Trump was wrong about what was specifically in the Biden-Sanders document. But he was right about Biden’s stance. Biden wants to re-direct funding from the police — which is precisely what many activists mean when they say “defund the police.”

The Biden campaign has been careful to avoid the phrase “defund the police” — while supporting the policy itself.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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