It’s rare that anything Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, says is received with vitriol by Black folks or the political left. She’s been a juggernaut since narrowly losing to current Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018, raising millions for Democratic candidates, erecting a massive campaign to fight voter disenfranchisement efforts and becoming widely considered one of the most popular Black women politicians in the country.
But last week, Abrams may have made a rare political misstep—at least if Black Twitter is a good barometer—when she tweeted about her public safety platform, including calling for a broad increase in pay for Georgia cops, rather than defunding or diverting funds from policing, which some progressives favor. Earlier this week, The Root talked to Abrams from the campaign trail and she clarified where she really stands on police reform, accountability and how she plans to keep people in her state safe if she takes the governor’s mansion this time around.
The Root: Why do you think your tweets about increasing police pay were received negatively by some people?
Stacey Abrams: The week before [the tweets], we released our criminal justice reform pillar. Public safety and justice have to be fundamentally connected, so we intentionally led with a conversation about justice. But in a fast-moving world, there are those who saw the conversation about justice and didn’t carry that information with them into the conversation about public safety.
TR: To be clear, what exactly is your platform on public safety?
SA: We must balance and deliver public safety and criminal justice reform. You cannot punish your way to success, and we have to acknowledge a lack of trust that exists.
TR: But you know that you have supporters who don’t believe paying cops more is the right move.
SA: I start with first principles. I believe in a living wage. We cannot with one breath say that we believe in a living wage and then say, “but...” If leaving law enforcement and going to work in an Amazon warehouse gives you the exact same benefits, why are you going to take those risks? Why would you?
TR: Yes or No: Do you believe in abolition of police?
TR: You’re not a proponent of defunding police?
SA: No, however, I recognize and understand the deep and terrible history behind American law enforcement and I understand the very present history that leads others to that conclusion. We cannot ignore the deep pain that communities feel because of the noxious and terrible history of law enforcement in this country.
There are those who would cast me in a mold that I’ve never been in. I’ve been clear that I believe both in public safety and in justice. I’ve never wavered.
TR: If you’re elected, how are you going to require police accountability in a state with a majority Republican legislature?
SA: I’ve done it before. In Georgia, until 2017, a law enforcement officer, who was accused of bad actions could listen to the grand jury testimony against him before he was called to testify. I was able to pull together law enforcement and Republicans and advocates to change that policy.
I worked in the legislature long enough to know that while most of these conversations are framed through a Fox [News] lens, there are folks from different parts of Georgia who have very real experiences and need the same reforms.