Pundit: Public skeptical as Kamala Harris transforms from ‘top cop’ to police reform crusader

Insiders continue to suggest that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is a frontrunner for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s No. 2 spot. But she certainly has her flaws, and one of them involves a current hot button issue: police reform.

In a recent report from The Sacramento Bee, congressional correspondent David Lightman asked a question to that many would like to know the answer: Where is the Kamala Harris who once called herself California’s “top cop?” It seems the tough-on-crime prosecutor is now missing, and a police-reforming senator has taken her place.

Harris’ own words

“Top cop” was actually what Harris considered herself to be back when she served as California’s attorney general, and back then, she intentionally cultivated an image of being tough on crime and staunchly pro-law enforcement.

In his report, Lightman cited Harris’ own 2010 book Smart on Crime, in which she expounded on this viewpoint in detail.

“If we take a show of hands of those who would like to see more police officers on the street, mine would shoot up,” Harris wrote, according to the Bee. “A more visible and strategic police presence is a deterrent to crime, and it has a positive impact on a community.”

Harris went on to refer to police officers as a “reassuring sign of a community’s commitment to order, calm and safety. More beat cops means more rapid response to assaults, traffic crimes and robberies and has a profound effect on reducing quality-of-life crimes by simple presence,” she wrote, as the Bee reported.

Stark reversal

However, here we are just a decade later, and Sen. Harris has become one of the leading proponents of the so-called police reform measures being demanded in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. While she has carefully stopped short of joining the chorus of progressives calling for the defunding or dismantling of law enforcement, she did applaud Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to slash resources for his own city’s police department, as the New York Post reported.

“Part of what has been upside down in policing policy in America is that we have confused having safe communities with hiring more cops on the street, as though that is the way to achieve safe communities, when in fact, the real way to achieve safe and healthy communities is to invest in those communities,” Harris said at a recent Congressional Black Caucus conference.

Furthermore, according to Forbes, on a recent appearance on ABC’s The View, Harris said:

I think that a big part of this conversation really is about reimagining how we do public safety in America. We have confused the idea that to achieve safety, you put more cops on the street instead of understanding to achieve safe and healthy communities, you put more resources into the public education system of those communities, into affordable housing, into home ownership, into access to capital for small businesses, access to health care regardless of how much money people have.

Which Kamala?

Voters are surely curious as to which version of Kamala Harris — the tough-on-crime prosecutor or the anti-cop social reformer —  is the one being considered for the vice-presidential slot.

Perhaps her ideology really has undergone a dramatic leftward shift, as has been the case with her party as a whole in recent years, or perhaps she has simply been cynically fishing for public support, both during her own failed presidential campaign and now as a contender to become Biden’s running mate.

Regardless, if Harris does indeed get the nod from Biden — something that will soon be revealed — then voters deserve to know, especially during these turbulent times, which incarnation of this particular candidate they would be getting.

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