April 13, 2021 07:22

After Capitol Riot, Biden May Move Slowly on Justice Reform

President-elect Joe Biden sold himself to voters as the man best able to heal a nation sundered by racism and partisan distrust. He vowed to rein in police abuse and reform criminal sentencing. Accomplishing these goals has been made immeasurably more difficult by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, reports the Washington Post. With liberals demanding bold action on issues of race and inequality and moderates urging caution, Biden must navigate sharp divisions in his own party, as well as the gulf between Democrats and the Republicans who retain half the Senate. Biden must find policies that can address decades of unequal treatment without provoking a backlash in the large swaths of the nation that did not vote for him. When he opposed “defunding” police, Biden said, “I support conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”

A Biden criminal justice plan called for ending the disparity in federal sentencing for crimes involving powder and crack cocaine, decriminalizing marijuana and shifting government resources from incarceration to crime prevention. Still, he warned civil rights leaders last month against getting “too far ahead of ourselves on dealing with police reform … because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police.’ ” Although several law enforcement groups backed Trump, police officials say Biden is well-positioned to help bridge the divide between law enforcement and civilians pushing for change. His long-standing ties with law enforcement could help him advance police reform. Among areas ripe for compromise are improved police hiring practices, greater participation by police departments in the FBI’s database of fatal police shootings and police use of force, and nationwide certification for police officers.

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