Election 2020

FLASHBACK: Joe Biden's Response To The Rodney King Beating Was Calling For Less Police Accountability

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Joe Biden has certainly exploited the death of George Floyd to help his campaign. He gave a speech at Floyd’s funeral service, essentially turning it into a campaign appearance. He’s also calling for more accountability for police officers accused of misconduct, and for changes to the tactics they use.

But, Joe Biden wasn’t always a proponent of police accountability. For years in the Senate, CNN noted, Biden “was one of the chief proponents of a Police Officer’s Bill of Rights measure” which critics believed “would have made all departmental misconduct allegations more difficult to investigate.” The measure was supported by the unions, but “faced sharp opposition from the nation’s police chiefs, including the National Association of Police Chiefs, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It also received condemnation from municipal organizations such as the National League of Cities and The United States Conference of Mayors.”

Biden proposed the “Police Officer’s Bill of Rights”  a couple of months after Los Angeles police officers were shown in video beating Rodney King during an arrest for drunk driving.

“The bill explicitly provides that the standards and protections governing internal investigations shall not apply to investigations for criminal misconduct by law enforcement officers,” Biden claimed at the time.

Police unions representing rank-and-file officers, which routinely lobby for laws and collective bargaining agreements that limit oversight and public disclosure of officer misconduct and offer greater job security for members, backed Biden’s bill. Throughout his career, Biden cultivated a long relationship with Delaware’s Fraternal Order of Police, and the group endorsed many of his Senate campaigns.

When the bill was introduced, US News and World Report described it as a “favor to police unions” from Biden. The bill’s language was passed in the Senate as a part of the larger Violent Crime Control Act of 1991, legislation that was co-sponsored by Biden and South Carolina Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond but never became law.

The Police Officer’s Bill of Rights never received a vote on its own, since it was tucked into the larger 1991 crime bill, but Thurmond opposed it, introduced an amendment which would have made it voluntary and criticized it, saying that it “may well turn every police department into a courtroom.”

Despite assurances from Biden would not impact criminal misconduct investigations of police officers, but  five criminal justice experts told CNN that the bill’s language “was unclear and conflated internal police probes with the routine criminal investigations that departments launch when any citizen commits a crime. The bill would have impacted departmental investigations into police officers.”

It makes you wonder what liberals will think when they know Biden’s real record.


Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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