President Joe Biden called on cities and states around the country on Friday to invest leftover Covid relief funds into public safety and police departments. The president also said local leaders should do it soon, because violent crime usually increases during the summer months.
“Spend this money now,” said President Biden. “Taking action today is going to save lives tomorrow, so use the money.”
The 2021 American Rescue plan provided $350 billion to state and local governments. The Treasury Department is about to release more of that funding. President Biden announced $6.5 billion of that money has gone directly to public safety initiatives.
According to the White House, those expenditures included:
- $1 billion in bonuses for front line public safety workers;
- $2 billion for violent crime prevention including community violence interventions, crisis responders and substance use and mental health services;
- $450 million for technology and equipment including new police cars and body cameras; and
- $350 million to reduce recidivism and help at risk youth, including job training and work opportunities.
President Biden has repeatedly called for increasing funding for police departments, which separates him from the more progressive wing of his party that has called for reductions in police funding and puts him more in line with moderates and Republicans. The White House has advocated for having more police officers on the beat.
“The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities,” President Biden said during a speech from the Rose Garden.
The White House highlighted cities across the country that used Covid relief money to make up for significant budget shortfalls during the pandemic. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said that without the money, officers would have been laid off and salaries would have been cut.
Detroit used $110 million for gunshot detection technology, body cameras, firehouse expansion, enhanced police patrols and expanded mental health co-response. The city’s police chief said the additional resources make it safer and easier when police respond to calls of individuals acting violently or erratically.
“By having a trained mental health professional on that car with a trained officer who is trained in mental health intervention, recognizing what they’re looking at, recognizing what they’re dealing with when they come upon someone who is in crisis,” Detroit Police Chief James White said.