WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is meeting Friday with mayors, police chiefs and local public officials to discuss how cities are using funds from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on policing and public safety programs.
A White House official insisted on anonymity to provide details of the meeting. In the afternoon, Biden plans to deliver remarks to ask state and local governments to devote more of their coronavirus relief spending to public safety.
The 2021 relief package included $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, money that could go to police departments. Following the deaths of several Black Americans by law enforcement officials, some Democrats and civil rights activists have urged cutting police budgets. Republican lawmakers have criticized Biden amid rising violent crime, even though the president has said he believes the police need the money.
“The answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said in his State of the Union address in March. “It’s to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them.”
Among the officials meeting with Biden are the mayors and police chiefs of Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Missouri, and Tampa, Florida. The mayors of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Toledo, Ohio, will also attend, as will officials from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
FBI records released last September suggest that Biden inherited a violent crime problem. In 2020, the year before Biden took office, homicides rose nearly 30% over the previous year, the largest one-year jump documented by the FBI. There were 21,570 killings, the highest since the early 1990s when homicides stayed above 23,000 a year.