Washington — Joe Biden pledged Monday that one of the first actions he would take as president, should he be elected in November, would be to establish a police oversight board.
Biden met with political and faith leaders for roughly 90 minutes at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, where he answered questions, delivered remarks and heard concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Biden said that if he defeats President Trump in November, he would create the oversight board within his first 100 days in office and address institutional racism.
"Hate just hides," Biden, who at times lowered the mask he was wearing due to the coronavirus, told attendees. "It doesn't go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks."
The former vice president said there should be a change in the way police are trained and suggested, for instance, that when law enforcement officers are confronted with a person without a firearm but "coming at them with a knife or something," cops "could shoot them in the leg instead of the heart."
"There are a lot of different things that can change," Biden said.
Later Monday, the former vice president hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with several mayors, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Biden stressed the importance of "finding a balance" between safety and allowing the protests taking place in cities nationwide.
The Democratic presidential hopeful's meeting with faith and community leaders comes a day after he visited a protest site in Wilmington. In a post on social media, Biden encouraged the nation to turn "anguish to purpose."
"As president, I will help lead this conversation — and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night's protests in Wilmington," Biden wrote.
Demonstrations opposing police brutality have erupted in major cities across the country in the days following Floyd's death last Monday. A police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck while he was prone on the pavement for more than eight minutes. In the final minutes of the incident, Floyd was unresponsive, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the 46-year-old's family, said Sunday.
The police officer who held Floyd down on the pavement, identified as Derek Chauvin, has beenwith second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.
While some of the protests against Floyd's death and those of other unarmed African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement have been peaceful, others have left to violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement.
The National Guard has been activated in nearly two dozen states and the District of Columbia, and mayors in major U.S. cities have imposed curfews.
During a virtual fundraiser last week, Biden said Floyd's death, which he called "brutal," has "ripped open anew this ugly underbelly of our society."
The former vice president has also called for police reforms that allow for police who engage in misconduct to be held accountable and said he spoke with Floyd's family members.