Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is rumored to announce his choice for vice president for the upcoming election by the end of the week, and Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) is slated to be a high-ranking candidate on his shortlist.
Prior to serving on Capitol Hill, Demings was the police chief of the Orlando Police Department — becoming the first woman to lead the department — serving for 27 years.
"I've been on both sides of this issue, as a social worker and as a law enforcement officer. I've enforced the laws and now I write them," she said. "I think that's pretty good experience to bring to Congress."
Demings, now in Congress, has been particularly vocal on police reform and racial inequality, as she is one of many co-sponsors on a police reform bill initiated in the House that seeks to ban chokeholds and other forms of racist-stemming behavior in law enforcement.
Following the death of George Floyd, Demings has praised peaceful protestors who’ve taken to the streets to advocate against racism and implicit bias in law enforcement.
"I am very proud of the persons who are demonstrating in the street," she says. "They should be demonstrating police misconduct."
As a black woman who grew up in Jacksonville, she noted that she was raised in a segregated school, where she was frequently verbally targeted at for being a minority.
Some Challenges to Overcome?
Even though Demings had a long career in law enforcement as a minority, some decisions that she’s made during her time as police chief could hurt her candidacy.
For example, under her watch, an officer pushed a 27-year-old Hispanic woman down a flight of stairs, which resulted in serious injuries.
Also, an 84-year-old World War II veteran was shoved to the ground by another officer, breaking his neck. The department was later sued for this, and the jury awarded the man $880,000 to cover any medical expenses.
An investigation sought by the Orlando Sentinel discovered that the city’s police force used aggression in arrests — particularly when the department was led by Demings — and double the number of arrests than at other agencies, with more than 50 percent of the arrests being black.
Demings also had her 9mm handgun taken from her unlocked car, a case that was perhaps one of the most humiliating instances during her time as chief.
Although her titles mark notoriety and respect because she served in public law enforcement, Demings’s actions and decisions during her police career spark questions in her ability to govern as a vice president. If selected as Biden’s running mate, she’ll likely be condemned by the Trump administration and Republicans for some of the challenges she confronted in her past.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.