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President Joe Biden listens as Detroit Police Chief James E. White speaks as Biden meets with law enforcement officials in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden met with  police chiefs from around the country, including Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, on Feb. 28 for a roundtable discussion at the White House on public safety. The meeting came after recently released statistics showed a decline in crime both in Wisconsin and across the nation.

“Last year, the United States had one of the lowest rates of all violent crime — of all violent crimes in more than 50 years. Murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery all dropped sharply, along with burglary, property crime, and theft. And it matters,” Biden said.

The 2021 American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law provided $350 billion to individual states for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and his administration encouraged local governments to devote a significant percentage of those funds to crime prevention. The plan was unanimously opposed by Republicans in both houses of Congress.

An August 2022 report from the Center for American Progress found that local officials had agreed with the Biden administration’s recommendations and have been using funds from the Rescue Plan to expand their crime reduction efforts.

Milwaukee sent Rescue Plan money, along with state funds authorized by Gov. Tony Evers, to the city’s Office of Community Wellness and Safety. The office works to address violence through a public health approach to prevent crimes before they occur. The city also used federal funds to expand the Police Athletic League, which operates multiple youth violence prevention programs, including mentorship and after-school activities.

The White House said that Milwaukee also hired more 911 dispatchers and new community policing officers and invested in gun crime investigations with the Rescue Plan.

Following these investments, the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission reported in January that in 2023, homicides in the city had declined 20% from the record high crime rates reported in 2022.The drop in homicides comes after a dramatic increase that began in 2020.

In a fact sheet, the White House noted that the United States saw the largest increase in murders ever recorded in the final year of former President Donald Trump’s term.

Released in 2020, Trump’s proposed 2021 budget would have cut funding for community policing by more than $400 million. Trump also proposed similar cuts in his budget proposals released in 2018 and 2019.

Trump also failed to sign any legislation that addressed gun safety. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2016 and in 2020, and he delivered the keynote address at the organization’s Presidential Forum in February.

“Donald Trump and the NRA are like two peas in a pod: flagrantly corrupt, politically toxic, and married to a ‘guns everywhere’ agenda that will make Americans less safe,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Feb. 9 statement.

Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law in 2022, making it the first major federal gun safety legislation to become law in 28 years. The law funds state-based gun violence prevention programs, adds domestic violence abusers to the national background check system, clarifies requirements for gun sellers, and increases background check requirements for guns bought by those under 21 years old.

Trump has frequently applauded police brutality and has a history of supporting police abuse of Black people. Biden, meanwhile, has condemned police abuses and called for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would enshrine several police accountability measures in federal law.

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