WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is requesting billions in its fiscal 2023 budget from Congress to fund police departments, despite progressive Democrats’ calls for some of that spending to be reallocated to social services.
President Joe Biden’s budget request to Congress unveiled Monday asks for $30 billion for state and local governments to add more police officers across the nation.
Biden has countered the narrative that Democrats want to “defund the police”, bringing up the administration’s commitment to police departments in his State of the Union address to Congress, and in a recent visit to New York City, meeting with Mayor Eric Adams, after two police officers died in the line of duty.
The “defund the police” slogan means to redirect funding away from police departments and instead use those funds for alternatives through other government agencies that would place more stress on public health solutions, prevention, intervention and social services. The movement grew after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis in 2020.
Some cities have taken this approach, in Baltimore, the City Council voted to move $22 million away from the police department’s budget of more than $500 million, and put those funds toward recreational centers, trauma centers and loan forgiveness for minority-owned businesses.
Republicans in advance of the midterm elections have tried to use the “defund the police” debate to portray Democrats as soft on crime. Biden has repeatedly said that Democrats want to “fund the police” and has also touted allocations through the American Rescue Plan, which provided $350 billion to state and local governments. The administration has strongly encouraged that funding be used for police and fire departments.
In its budget, the White House is also requesting $1.7 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to expand its operation in tracking guns across multiple districts by adding more personnel, regulating the firearms industry and modernizing its National Tracing Center, which helps law enforcement track the origin of a gun that has been found at a crime scene.
The White House is also requesting funds for the Department of Justice for police reform, prosecuting hate crimes, and enforcing voting rights. The proposal is for $367 million, an increase of $101 million from fiscal 2021.
That would include $18 million for the FBI to investigate civil rights violations, $8 million for the U.S. attorneys’ offices to prosecute civil rights violations, and $1 million for the Criminal Division to expand its investigations of election related crimes, such as voter suppression.
Biden’s request to Congress also asks for $106 million for the use of body cameras for the Department of Justice’s law enforcement officers.