WALL STREET JOURNAL, ARUNA VISWANATHA AND ELIZA COLLINS
President Biden’s budget proposes billions of dollars to combat violent crime, setting a pre-midterm-election marker for moderate Democrats against calls from progressives to reduce funding to police forces.
In the budget unveiled Monday, the administration asked for more than $2.5 billion in new spending for the Justice Department for the next fiscal year, and separately proposed $30 billion over the next decade to “support law enforcement, crime prevention, community violence intervention, and justice system reform,” the Justice Department said.
“The answer is not to defund our police departments. It’s to fund our police and give them all the tools they need,” Mr. Biden said Monday. “The budget puts more police on the street for community policing so they get to know the community they are policing.”
The budget also asked for 131 new prosecutors to help with the sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, assisting in the more than 750 cases that have resulted to date from that. The proposal also asked for new money for antitrust enforcement, civil rights and other issues the department has prioritized from the outset of the administration.
Some of the new proposed violent-crime funding includes doubling resources for a program to combat gun violence to $40 million; creating a new $250 million grant program to help communities develop strategies to calm tensions before they turn violent; and adding more than 100 additional agents to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and more than 100 new federal prosecutors to help prosecute violent crime.
“I have met with countless police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, you name it. Every single one of them says we need more help,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a briefing with reporters. She added that among other requests, local officials specifically ask for ATF’s assistance to trace guns used in crimes and help from the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate opioid deaths.
Republicans have highlighted rising crime statistics in their efforts to cast Democrats, who lead most major U.S. cities, as soft on crime ahead of November’s midterms. Among other things, they have criticized “defund the police” proposals by progressive activists and politicians that would reallocate police funding to social programs.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee said: “Don’t let Biden’s budget fool you—Biden does not support the police. If he did, he would call on Democrat-run cities to stop undermining law enforcement.”
Mr. Biden has rejected calls to “defund the police” and sought to balance an anticrime message with promises from his administration that it would work to overhaul police practices after the high-profile killings of Black people led to widespread protests. “I know what works: investing in crime prevention and community police officers who’ll walk the beat, who’ll know the neighborhood, and who can restore trust and safety,” he said earlier this month in the State of the Union address.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.), who supports the defund-the-police movement, said the congresswoman was still going through the president’s budget. Ms. Bush earlier this month said Mr. Biden’s call for more police funding was “incredibly disappointing.”
“I think it’s a really important recognition in this party of the value of policing,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), a moderate Democrat who has proposed increased funding to local police departments.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the budget was a good sign that the administration was taking the rise in crime seriously. “We’re clearly heartened by the commitment that the president is making to taking every possible step to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the spike in violent crime which we are enduring,” Mr. Pasco said.
Justice Department officials said the budget also included a proposed new program that would include a $4.4 billion fund to examine new strategies to address violent crime. The department said more details about that fund would be coming from the White House in the coming weeks.