Joe Biden did not call for defunding the police
CLAIM: During an interview with activist Ady Barkan, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden gave his full support to defunding the police in the United States.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Biden said he supports redirecting some police funding to address mental health or to change the prison system.
THE FACTS: Since George Floyd’s death in police custody in May, one of the main demands from activists and protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement has been for local and federal governments to defund the police.
Given this, in an interview between Biden and Barkan published July 8 by the digital media site NowThis News, one of the topics discussed was police funding.
Since that interview was posted, various news outlets and opinion blogs have published stories claiming both that Biden called police “the enemy” and that he agreed to defund the police.
“Joe Biden Says Police Have ‘Become the Enemy,’ ‘Absolutely’ Should Defund Them,” reads a headline from the conservative website Townhall.com.
That story and others with the same claims got explosive traction on social media, viewed hundreds of thousands of times and shared by prominent figures including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
But such statements are incorrect. Biden never suggested he wanted to completely defund the police, and his quote about police becoming “the enemy” is taken out of context.
In the interview, Biden agrees with Barkan that some of the funding for police should be redirected into different programs, such as mental health counseling.
He also said that, in his opinion, police forces don’t need military equipment, because it makes them look as if they are invading communities.
“The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood,” he said. “It’s like the military invading. They don’t know anybody. They become the enemy. They’re supposed to be protecting these people.”
Biden never directly said police “are the enemy,” though some headlines claimed he did.
A month earlier, on June 8, Biden’s campaign released a statement explaining he does not support defunding police forces.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the candidate “does not believe that police should be defunded,” The Associated Press reported at the time.
“Biden supports the urgent need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing,” Bates said.
On July 8, the same day the Ady Barkan interview came out, Biden also clarified his views on the topic, according to AP reporting.
“We don’t have to defund the police departments, we have to make sure they meet minimum basic standards of decency,” he told reporters.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536