Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a top Democrat in the House of Representatives, voiced his disapproval for efforts to defund the police, but said he envisions a change in policing.
“I would simply say, as I have always said, nobody is going to defund the police,” Clyburn, the House majority whip, said during an appearance June 14 on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do. The fact of the matter is, the police have a role to play. What we have got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in.”
Calls to defund the police, or cut funding for police departments, have risen in some circles, but a number of top lawmakers from both parties said they don’t approve of the efforts even as they support varying levels of law enforcement reform.
Clyburn, 79, said he didn’t fear police when he was growing up, but now he does.
“The fact of the matter is, this is a structure that has been developed that we have got to deconstruct. So, I wouldn’t say defund. Deconstruct our policing,” he said.
Democratic elected officials in Minneapolis, where a black man, George Floyd, died in police custody last month, are moving toward completely replacing the city’s police department.
The Minneapolis City Council on June 12 passed a veto-proof resolution to pursue replacing its police department with a “community-led public safety system.”
In other areas, Democrats are cutting millions from police budgets, redirecting the funds to programs meant to boost minorities and the impoverished. Most Americans oppose defunding the police, according to polls.
Some Democrats in Congress do support the movement, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Asked who would carry out the work police officers traditionally do, such as investigating crimes, Omar said on the same CNN show that the newly approved resolution “will engage the community on a one-year process of what happens as we go through the process of dismantling the department and starting anew.”
“This is our opportunity, you know, as a city, to come together, have the conversation of what public safety looks like, who enforces the most dangerous crimes that take place in our community,” she said.
Dismantling the police department, Omar said, is the first step, as officials eye “what funding priorities should look like as we reimagine a new way forward is what needs to happen.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.