President Biden on Monday called for police officers to be retrained so they’re taught not to use deadly force in every situation that requires them to fire their weapon.
The 80-year-old president’s comments came during the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast in Washington, DC, as Biden blasted Senate Republicans for blocking a police reform bill in 2021 that would’ve restricted the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers.
“We have to retrain cops,” Biden said. “Why should you always shoot with deadly force? The fact is if you need to use your weapon, you don’t have to do that.”
Biden noted that his May 2022 executive order on police reform included many of the measures sought in the failed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“I did the only thing I could do,” Biden said after the bill named in honor of the unarmed black man killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis in 2020 failed to reach his desk.
“I signed a historic executive order that included key elements of that bill at the federal level,” he said of the order that “bans chokeholds and greatly restricts no-knock warrants … creates a national database for officer misconduct and tightens the use-of-force policies to emphasize deescalation.”
Biden made a similar suggestion about the use of deadly force by police on the presidential campaign trail in 2020, at the height of the George Floyd riots, arguing that police officers should be trained to shoot threatening individuals “in the leg instead of the heart.”
“Instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there’s an unarmed person coming at them with a knife or something, shoot them in the leg instead of in the heart,” Biden told African American community leaders in June of 2020 at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden added that “there’s a lot of different things that can change” in police training.
The president’s comments on Monday elicited condemnation on Twitter from some groups that support law enforcement officers.
“It’s IRRESPONSIBLE comments like this that cause problems where there does not need to be any,” Melissa Robey, founder of police advocacy organization We Back Blue, wrote in a tweet.
“Does Biden talk to police to see why they do what they do? Biden doesn’t understand policing,” John Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said Monday.
“If he wants to increase retention, don’t immediately release criminals & make police feel pointless,” Lott Jr. added, referring to the struggles police departments nationwide have had keeping officers on the force.
Police reportedly killed 1,185 people in 2022, according to a data analysis by Mapping Police Violence. Less than 10% of the cases where an individual was killed by police involved an unarmed subject, according to the group.