Activist state

Beasley touts sheriff’s support and opposes ‘defunding the police’

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley speaks during a campaign appearance in Durham, North Carolina, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

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North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley cast herself Monday as a bridge between law enforcement and the Democratic Party, appealing to moderate voters in one of the nation’s most competitive races to a seat in the tightly divided chamber.

Joined by more than a dozen current and former law enforcement officers at a press conference in Durham, Beasley announced new legislative priorities to bolster public safety and mend the frayed relationship between her party and police forces.

The Democrat pledged to work with Republican lawmakers to secure funding for local law enforcement to train officers in de-escalation techniques, mindful responses to behavioral health crises and alternatives to using strength. She also told sheriffs she would fight for federal funding to help rural departments deal with officer shortages and the ongoing opioid crisis.

With the Senate in a 50-50 stalemate, North Carolina is one of the few states where Democrats have strong potential to flip a seat in November. Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, will face Republican U.S. Representative Ted Budd, who is backed by former President Donald Trump, this fall.

Beasley distanced himself on Monday from the “defund the police” movement – a gradual push to take funds out of police department budgets and reallocate them to social services and other community resources.

Popularized by Black Lives Matter activists during the 2020 George Floyd protests, the slogan became a political weapon for Republican candidates in the last election cycle, giving them a mechanism to cast their Democratic opponents as law enforcement. anti-law.

“I don’t support defunding the police,” Beasley said Monday. “I know police officers need more funding…for recruitment, retention, training, mental health and addressing the opioid crisis. We need to be more realistic about the kinds of problems they face in our communities.

Beasley is among several Democratic candidates in competitive races who have recently spoken out against the polarizing political movement.

U.S. Representative Val Demings, a Florida Democrat and former Orlando police chief who is challenging U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for his seat, pledged in a recent ad campaign to protect Floridians from “crazy” ideas like ” reimburse the policy”. And Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who is fighting for a second term in one of the nation’s most contentious gubernatorial races, called the unwarranted police shootings “isolated cases” and praised the government’s high budget. for law enforcement.

Budd said on Monday it was “dishonest” for Beasley to portray himself as being favored by law enforcement. He touted his own endorsements of the North Carolina Troopers Association, a separate union that represents most Border Patrol agents and many local sheriffs as proof that he would be the best candidate to support officers and deputies.

Beasley’s campaign is in “a desperate law enforcement situation,” Budd said after speaking to Christian ministers and their wives at a Greenville church.

Republicans criticized Beasley last year when a Federal Election Commission filing showed his campaign was listed as participating in a joint fundraiser that included Democratic U.S. Representative Cori Bush of Missouri’s campaign committee. Bush is a strong advocate for defunding the police and reinvesting that money in social services and mental health programs. Budd made an indirect reference to Beasley’s association with Bush during his campaign appearance on Monday.

Subsequent organizational documents filed for the “Lead the Way 2022” committee do not mention the continued involvement of the Beasley campaign.

County Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said Beasley rightly criticized law enforcement, noting she was the first chief justice in the country to speak out against racial bias in the justice system after a white Minneapolis police officer murdered Floyd, a 46-year-old man. Black man, in May 2020.

But Birkhead also described her as the only candidate in the race “that law enforcement can really rely on.”

“She has demonstrated knowledge, leadership and advocacy,” the sheriff said. “People like his opponent talk about a great game to support us, but his (Budd’s) record says otherwise.”

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow her on Twitter @H_Schoenbaum.