Joe Biden’s deliberations over his choice of running mate are causing concern among Black Lives Matter activists calling for police reform, after suggestions grew that he could choose a former police chief.
Biden, 77, has already pledged to have a woman as his vice president.
He is facing mounting calls to choose a woman of color, and among those on the shortlist is believed to be former Orlando police chief Val Demings.
But her suggestion as running mate is angering some, with opponents critical of her record while police chief. They point to several incidents of police using excessive force but going without serious punishment during her tenure.
‘Joe Biden would be an idiot to put her on his ticket,’ said Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter, Greater New York chapter.
‘People are already on the fence about him,’ he told The New York Post.
‘When black people become police officers, they are no longer black. They are blue.
‘And I have been told this by numerous officers.’
Val Demings, 63, was chief of Orlando police from 2007-11. Her rule was controversial, with several incidents of police using excessive force but going without serious punishment
Demings, 63, a two-term Florida congresswoman, has soared in prominence as riots flared around the country following the killing of George Floyd.
‘She’s fresh and new, and seems better on TV than Kamala [Harris],’ a campaign insider told the New York Post.
‘I think right now she’s got an outside but decent shot at VP.’
Demings has publicly stated her interest in the role.
‘It is absolutely an honor, and these are the kind of opportunities that I want every boy and girl who are watching – no matter the color of their skin or how much money they or their parents have or where they live that in this country – they are supposed to live the American dream,’ Demings told her local tv station, Channel 9, when asked about being considered for the job.
But Demings’s 27 years in the Orlando police Department, before rising to become the city’s first female chief, are said to be complicating the matter.
Demings was chief from 2007-11, then retired from the force and in 2012 ran for office. She was elected as a representative for Florida in 2016.
Val Demings and Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando, pictured in November 2009 in the Florida city
The Biden campaign staffer said there was ‘definitely going to be some stuff in her record people won’t like.’
The source added: ‘Other VP candidates are probably researching that furiously.’
Other names mentioned include California senator Kamala Harris; Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren; Georgia politician Stacey Abrams; Barack Obama’s former UN ambassador Susan Rice; New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta, who has like Demings has seen her profile surge during the protests.
Clockwise from top left: Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Val Demings
Demings, one of seven children born to a poor family in Jacksonville, Florida, began her law enforcement career in 1984.
She rose from cop out on the street to detective to being chosen, in 2007, to lead the 700-person department – the first woman to head the force.
But her four-year tenure was rife with controversy.
In 2010, Orlando officer Travis Lamont slammed an 84-year-old to the ground so hard he broke his neck.
Daniel Daley, a veteran of the Second World War, complained to Lamont about his car being towed.
Lamont said Daley was intoxicated and he felt threatened by the old man.
Daley sued the department, which was forced to pay out $880,000. An internal review by the police cleared Lamont of wrongdoing.
‘After review of the defensive tactic … by the training staff and Officer (Travis) Lamont’s chain of command, it appears the officer performed the technique within department guidelines,’ said Demings at the time.
Daley’s son Greg told The Post the thought of Demings as vice president made him ‘sick to [his] stomach.’
‘He’s been on a feeding tube for 2 1/2 years now because of that,’ said Greg, adding that his father currently lives in a nursing home.
‘He hasn’t had a bite of food for more 2 1/2 years and it stems from that incident.’
Val Demings was elected to the House, representing Florida, in November 2016
Joe Biden is currently evaluating a series of potential running mates, all of them women
In May 2011, Orlando cop Livio Beccaccio slammed a woman into the ground after she was involved in a brawl downtown.
Beccaccio used an ‘arm bar’ technique with such force he broke her teeth.
When a bystander called the police to report the incident, which was captured on video, she was arrested for assaulting him.
Beccaccio’s police report allegedly falsely said that she ‘stumbled forward and fell to the pavement.’
Beccaccio received a 40-hour suspension.
Furthermore, a review of the department by Orlando Weekly in 2008 declared Demings’ police force to be a place where ‘rogue cops operate with impunity, and there’s nothing anybody who finds himself at the wrong end of their short fuse can do about it.’
Demings defended her department in an op-ed to the Orlando Sentinel.
‘Looking for a negative story in a police department is like looking for a prayer at church,’ Demings wrote.
‘I believe a reasonable person also understands that a few seconds (even on video) rarely capture the entire set of circumstances.’
Demings, one of seven children born to a poor family in Jacksonville, Florida, has said she is honored to be in contention for the vice-presidential role and would accept if asked
Her record as police chief, in light of the wave of demands for an end to police brutality following George Floyd’s killing by a white policeman, is worrying many of Biden’s supporters.
Newsome, 41, a former special projects coordinator for the Bronx district attorney, said Kamala Harris’ years as a prosecutor should also disqualify her as a veep candidate.
He said he favors Michelle Obama or former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams.
Some Democratic Party insiders, however, dismissed criticism of Demings, pointing out she could serve as a valuable bridge between activists demanding a black woman as running mate, and moderates hoping to win over law-and-order voters.
‘The left flank, which is the very loud but very small minority that is pissed on Twitter about everything, are going to hate whoever he picks,’ one Senate insider told The Post.
‘The African American community isn’t going to be inclined to distrust a black woman.’
Biden’s vetting committee had conversations with a larger group of women earlier this spring; those continuing on in the process have been asked to turn over financial records, past writings and other documentation.
Biden has had various public and private interactions with many of the women his vetting committee has considered thus far, but has not yet had any formal one-on-one interviews expressly to discuss the No. 2 spot on the ticket. Those aren’t expected for several weeks.