LOTT: Biden's 'Tough-on-Crime' Law & Order Speech in Pennsylvania Was Deeply Dishonest

Democrats continue pushing "bail reform," which exacerbates the problem letting violent criminals back onto the street

By John R. Lott, Jr.

On Tuesday, August 30th, President Joe Biden traveled to Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to attempt to "flip the script" on Republicans with a law-and-order campaign message. The theme of Biden's speech was that "the answer is not to defund our police departments — it's to fund our police."

Biden's speech certainly involved a lot of flipping. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden was asked whether he supported "redirect[ing] some of the funding for police into social services." At the time, he responded, "Yes, I proposed that kind of reform."

In Biden's three previous speeches on violent crime, his focus has almost exclusively been on gun control. He certainly didn't say anything pro-police in those speeches. Biden mentioned police only four times — twice in connection with enforcing gun control. And he dabbled in gun control inaccuracies in Pennsylvania, too, including his constant referencing of AR-style semiautomatic rifles as "weapons of war" when even the Associated Press' influential Stylebook makes clear that AR-style semiautomatic rifles are not weapons used by any military.

Adding police can be an important step in reducing crime. The $13 billion spent on hiring and training more police may be small compared to the $80 billion that Biden is going to spend on hiring 87,000 new IRS agents, but it could make a big difference if it is actually spent on hiring new officers.

But in many Democrat-controlled cities, the problem starts with the district attorneys. In Philadelphia, New York City, and many other places, DAs are simply not prosecuting many violent criminals. Such policies come at a particularly bad time, after large numbers of inmates have been released by liberal judges from jails and prisons over the last two years.

Now, many Democrats are continuing to push "bail reform," which would exacerbate the problem by letting violent criminals out onto the street. In states such as California and Nevada, moreover, Democrats have also championed dramatically lower criminal penalties.

But Biden didn't mention any of this in Tuesday's tendentious speech. And if Biden is unwilling to criticize the misguided policies of fellow Democrats, then he can't call himself "tough on crime."

Police already face a very frustrating job when they see the people they arrest immediately put back on the street. Policing is only one part of the approach to making it a riskier proposition for someone to commit a crime. And policing is only effective in reducing crime if the rest of the law enforcement apparatus is functioning properly.

Biden refuses to criticize the Democrat-run cities that have advanced the "defund the police" movement, which has dramatically cut the number of cops on the beat.
  Biden chose this "tough-on-crime" speech on a trip to campaign for soft-on-crime Democrats. Pennsylvania's Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, John Fetterman, gave a telling answer when asked what he would do if he could wave a magic wand to fix one thing. Fetterman said he would abolish life without parole for murder. And no matter how many crimes you commit, Fetterman wants to "expunge" people's criminal records after just 10 years. That way, no one could ever face a criminal sentence of longer than 10 years.

Biden claimed in Wilkes-Barre that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who want to "defund the police." He asserted,
"We set aside 350 billion — with a 'b' — billion dollars for state and local governments all across America, and urged them to use it, like your governor did, to make communities safer. ...[But] every single Republican member of Congress — every single one in this state, every single one — voted against the support for law enforcement."

Biden has made this claim before, and even liberal fact-checkers at The Washington Post and Fatcheck.org took him to task.

  • The Post called the claim "slipshod" and gave Biden three-out-of-four "Pinocchios."
  • Factcheck.org called it "misleading."

Biden's own Treasury Department summarized the $350 billion "American Rescue Plan" spending package this way:
"The [American] Rescue Plan will provide needed relief to state, local, and Tribal governments to enable them to continue to support the public health response. ...It will also provide resources for state, local, and Tribal governments to invest in infrastructure, including water, sewer, and broadband services."

Nowhere, notably, are police or prosecutions mentioned as priorities.

Biden has himself made the job of police more difficult.
Biden doesn't realize that large numbers of police have been injured in riots or when going after drug gangs, in recent years — to say nothing of policing's inherent day-to-day dangers. What is already a dangerous job would be even more dangerous without top-notch gear. And no-knock warrants can save lives, too, when invading a drug gang's house.

It isn't complicated why crime has increased in America in recent years. Failing to convict or incarcerate criminals, while also making policing more difficult, will inevitably lead to more crime.

Biden has no idea what it means to be tough on crime.

John R. Lott, Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author, most recently, of "Gun Control Myths."