WASHINGTON — Facing rising fears of summer violence, President Joe Biden is embarking on a political high-wire act, trying to balance his strong backing for law enforcement with the police reform movement championed by many of his supporters.
His focus Monday was on crime.
Biden met at the White House with urban leaders — including Eric Adams, the heavy favorite to be the next mayor of New York City — about increased shootings, as Democrats warily watch a surge across the nation. Though limited to what can be done at the federal level, Biden vowed to support efforts on the ground to combat crime.
“We know when we utilize trusted community members and encourage more community policing, we can intervene before the violence erupts,” the president said.
The meeting was the second in just three weeks, underscoring the political concern crime has become for Democrats as they look to protect their thin margins in Congress. Big city mayors and lawmakers have sounded the alarm on the rise in crime, believed partly fueled by destabilizing forces of the pandemic, and polls suggest it is an increasing matter of concern for many Americans.
White House aides believe that Biden, with his long legislative record on crime as a former senator, is not easy to paint as soft on the issue. And the president has been clear that he is opposed to the “defund the police” movement, which has been effectively used against some Democrats to paint them as anti-law enforcement.
The president promoted the money for policing in his COVID-19 relief bill and, reflecting on his nearly four decades in the Senate, declared that “Most of my career has been on this issue.”