Campaign check: Republicans allege Ossoff, Warnock don’t back police

Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock bumping elbows with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff on Friday, October 23, 2020.  Contributed by Derrian Carter

Credit: Derrian Carter

Credit: Derrian Carter

Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock bumping elbows with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff on Friday, October 23, 2020. Contributed by Derrian Carter

The statements:

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff wants to “defund the police.” -Sen. David Perdue ad, released Nov. 13

“Radical Raphael Warnock wants to defund the police, empty our prisons, and undermine public safety.” -Georgians for Kelly Loeffler website

What we found:

Both Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock have repeatedly said they are against defunding police departments, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Earlier this year, the words “defund the police” featured heavily in nationwide protests calling for racial justice spurred by the May death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. The phrase could be seen and heard among protesters in Atlanta, accelerating after police fatally shot Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s on the city’s southside in June.

AJC Senate Watch: Checking candidates’ claims, answering readers’ questions

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s top Republican politicians, including Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, seized upon that message, using it as an example of a “radical movement” supported by Democrats, the AJC previously reported.

An ad released by Perdue’s campaign on Nov. 13 says of Ossoff and other Democrats, “Their plan? Increase taxes. Defund the police. Pass the Green New Deal. Open the borders. Give voting rights to illegal immigrants. Eliminate private health insurance. Cut the military. Make D.C. a state. And pack the Supreme Court.”

Perdue also directly responded to an Ossoff interview in June calling for increased accountability for police officers and departments. “Defunding the police is an outrageous idea, yet my opponent still refuses to say if he supports this radical movement,” Perdue said. “I have called for police reform to ensure our laws are enforced fairly for all members of our community.”

Following a similar pattern, Loeffler has leveled nearly identical claims at Warnock, beginning with her first outright attack on the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church back in June, the AJC reported. “It’s abundantly clear that Raphael Warnock is taking a page out of Joe Biden’s hide and seek playbook,” Loeffler said. “When the stakes are this high, we all deserve courage and accountability from our candidates. Where’s Warnock? His silence is deafening.”

A website created by Loeffler’s campaign makes the claim in direct, plain language. In a section entitled Dangerous Agenda, the site says, “Radical Raphael Warnock wants to defund the police.”

Warnock has consistently denied that he supports the idea of defunding the police. In November, Warnock’s campaign released an ad showing both active and retired law enforcement officers endorsing him.

A recent ad from the American Crossroads, a conservative super Pac, also accuses Warnock of being unsupportive of police. The ad features Sheriff Mike Jolley of Harris County, who accuses Warnock of being “an anti-police extremist.”

“Warnock for months has been saying he opposes defunding the police, the controversial concept of eliminating or reallocating funds from police budgets,” reports, which calls the American Crossroads ad deceptive.

In an October debate organized by Georgia Public Broadcasting, which included Loeffler, Warnock said, “I support law enforcement … I think it’s possible to appreciate the work that law enforcement officers do, and at the same time, hold them accountable.”

In June, Ossoff told the AJC that he backs “reforming and demilitarizing policing in America.” He also addressed the idea in an interview with WSB radio.

“No, the answer is not to defund police. The answer is to reform police. And the answer is to demilitarize police. Far too many local police departments are heavily equipped with armored vehicles and military equipment, and when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Ossoff said.

Warnock also supports police reform, the AJC previously reported. “We need to reimagine policing and reimagine the relationships between law enforcement and communities,” Warnock said. “We certainly need to demilitarize the police so we can rebuild the trust between the police and the community.”

Ossoff has linked his stance on policing with that of President-elect Joe Biden, who has said that he does not support defunding the police, the AJC previously reported.

“I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness — and in fact are able to demonstrate they can protect the community,” Biden said.

Although both Ossoff and Warnock clarified their positions months ago, saying in no uncertain terms that neither supports the idea of defunding the police, Perdue and Loeffler continue to claim otherwise.

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