The National Association of Police Organizations, which twice endorsed the Barack Obama-Joe Biden ticket and stayed neutral in 2016, backed President Donald Trump this year. Its president told the Republican convention Biden and Senator Kamala Harris were “the most radical anti-police ticket in history.” If he is elected, Biden would bring a long career’s worth of relationships with police chiefs and union leaders unmatched by any other major Democratic figure, the New York Times reports. Biden says he would draw both racial-justice activists and police leaders “to the table” to forge durable solutions. The 2020 campaign has underscored the difficulty he may have in achieving that goal. He is presenting himself as both a criminal-justice reformer and a friend to diligent police officers, a critic of racism and rioting alike. Biden has seen support from prominent law-enforcement groups disintegrate as they closed ranks against reform legislation. They object to Biden’s rhetoric about “systemic racism” in policing and to his vows to regulate police agencies with federal power.
His campaign issued a long list of endorsements by former sheriffs and prosecutors. Trump has exploited gaps between Biden and police leaders, running television ads accusing Biden of siding against police amid unrest. For years, Biden stood out in the Senate as a fierce defender of police. “He was a terrific ambassador for the Obama presidency, for law enforcement,” said Laurie Robinson, an ex-assistant attorney general whose office distributed grants to police agencies. “That made a tremendous difference in the ability to work not just with the leadership organizations, but with the unions.” Still, in the reform atmosphere after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., James Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police said that for Biden’s heartfelt outreach to law enforcement, he was still “on the anti-police side of these issues.”