As the focus on police reform intensifies after George Floyd’s death, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is pushing for more accountability for police misconduct. As reported by CNN, Biden’s role in shaping the current criminal justice system has also come under scrutiny, including his support of the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights measure.
After Biden introduced the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights in 1991, opponents of the bill claimed it would make it more challenging to investigate police department misconduct allegations. Notably, it faced criticism the same year from then-New York City Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown, who claimed the legislation would be a detriment to advances made to increase accountability for police officers and supervisors accused of misconduct.
On the other end of the spectrum, supporters of the proposal, including Biden and police unions, contended that it provided necessary protection for officers who are subject to internal investigations.
“The bill stipulated that an officer under investigation would have access to the names and statements of other police officers who were questioned as part of the investigation, which could discourage officers from coming forward and speaking out against their colleagues,” the report reads.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, the bill came two months after the beating of Rodney King and never made it past the Judiciary Committee, which Biden headed at the time. However, a modified version of the legislation made it into the Violent Crime Control Act of 1991, which was adjusted and combined into the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, initially written by Biden and passed by then-President Bill Clinton.
Bernie Sanders denouncing the mass incarceration provisions of Joe Biden's crime bill in April 1994: pic.twitter.com/ZKrCODIwGp
— “Ideas That Are Lying Around” (@_waleedshahid) April 25, 2019
In response to Biden’s push for the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, his campaign emphasized his career’s focus on workers’ rights, as opposed to the bill’s implications for police misconduct investigations.
“As Joe Biden underscored when he held his very first rally of this campaign in a Pittsburgh union hall, he has spent his career fighting for workers’ right to unionize and for fundamental workplace rules with respect to any profession.”
While many progressive Democrats are calling for a reexamination of police department budgets across the country, Biden, along with President Donald Trump, have opposed such efforts. Instead, as reported by Forbes, Biden called for an additional $300 million to be invested into community policing. The former vice president suggested that such an investment would help departments have the money to invest in reforms such as body cameras, diverse recruitment, and the institution of other “real reforms.”