Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s pick to be the next associate attorney general, stated during her confirmation hearing Tuesday morning that she does not support defunding police, although past remarks have led to claims that she does.
Gupta faced questions of whether her partisan politics might prevent her from carrying out the duties of the senior Justice Department position. She insisted that she is up to the task and noted that she has received support from many law enforcement officials and organizations.
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“I do not support defunding the police,” Gupta said during the hearing. “I have in fact spent my career advocating, where it’s been necessary, for greater resources for law enforcement for things like body-worn cameras, office wellness and safety programs, and any number of measures.”
That position is in contrast with testimony that Gupta provided to the committee in 2020 following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, which took place during police encounters. Floyd’s death in particular sparked nationwide protests and calls for police reform, marked by the left-wing movement to defund ‒ and in some cases abolish ‒ police departments.
“While front-end systems changes are important, it is also critical for state and local leaders to heed calls from Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives activists to decrease police budgets and the scope, role, and responsibility of police in our lives,” Gupta wrote.
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Gupta noted that when providing that testimony she was speaking as a representative of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, for which she serves as president and CEO.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, cited another statement from Gupta in a letter to Congress from the Leadership Conference and other organizations. In that letter, Cruz said, Gupta called on Congress to “reexamine federal spending priorities and shrink the footprint of the police and criminal legal system in this country.” The senator also quoted another remark from Gupta at a webinar given by Arabella Investors.
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“Localities have been overspending on criminal justice system infrastructure and policing and divesting in housing, education, jobs, and healthcare. Some people call it ‘defunding’ the police, other people call it ‘divest/invest,'” Gupta said last year. “But whatever you call it, if you care about mass incarceration, you have to care about skewed funding priorities.”
Gupta on Tuesday insisted that she does not support defunding police and claimed that these statements dealt with concerns that she has shared with law enforcement officials about the need to provide solutions to crime problems in addition to sending police.