Three Georgia sheriffs spoke outside the state capitol to slam Democrats for pushing to defund the police as President-elect Joe Biden arrives in the state Tuesday to campaign for Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.
“We have to have more money for police if we want better police. It’s crazy talk to say you want to defund police,” Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said at the press conference livestreamed by the Georgia Republican Party.
Their comments come after Biden told a group of civil rights leaders that calls among progressives to defund the police allowed the GOP to “beat the living hell” out of Democrats during the 2020 election cycle, according to leaked audio that surfaced last week.
Republicans are attempting to paint Georgia’s Democratic Senate hopefuls as too radical.
“99.7% of the time we get it right, and when we fall short we’re held accountable. So when I hear rhetoric like defunding law enforcement and public safety, I can’t help but think of what it takes to do our job on a daily basis, the funding that it takes, the training, the education,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said on Tuesday. “We don’t need to defund law enforcement. We need to fund it more. We need to hire the best.”
In this Nov. 15, 2020, file photo Georgia Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff, right, gesture toward a crowd during a campaign rally in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
The sheriffs expressed support for incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, with Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman calling for voters to “send them back to Washington so they can fight for us.”
During the leaked call, Biden said public demands for police reform should be avoided ahead of the Georgia Senate runoff vote, the outcome of which will determine control of Congress’ upper chamber.
“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead ourselves on dealing with police reform in that, because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing – which I promise you, will occur. Promise you,” Biden said in the leaked audio first obtained by The Intercept.
In this July 15, 2020, file photo Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., puts on a face mask as she walks with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., right, at UPS Hapeville Airport Hub in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Biden is in Georgia this week as Democrats hope to flip both Georgia Senate seats blue in January. Early voting in the state began Monday.
“What we’ve heard so far from the Democratic Party is what they’re not going to do,” defund advocate Andrea Ritchie told Mother Jones. “I don’t expect they will be supportive of the main demand from the streets … It’s gonna be a fight. We’re not going away.”
Biden embraced some calls for police reform during his presidential campaign, such as a ban on chokeholds and the creation of a national police oversight commission. But he opposed far-left efforts to defund the police, a catch-all term for anything from reducing police budgets to abolishing law enforcement completely. Biden instead pushed for $300 million in additional police funding, mainly for improved training.
A strong majority of voters opposed cutting police budgets in July, and its association with the Democratic Party proved harmful on Election Day.
House Democrats had expected to expand their majority but instead saw it drastically shrink after the 2020 election despite Biden’s defeat of President Trump. Some blamed their poor showing on the defund movement. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., called it left-wing “foolishness” that hurt more moderate members, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said it “hurt a lot of our candidates.”
Fox News’ Peter Doocy, David Rutz and Thomas Barabbi contributed to this report.
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