As Rep. Val Demings has risen through the political ranks, one line from her resume has stood out: her three-year tenure as the chief of the Orlando Police Department.
That includes this moment, as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden considers tapping her as his running mate. But as the nation once again grapples with the impact that law enforcement has on Black Americans after multiple killings of Black people at the hands of police, Demings’ lengthy law enforcement career is getting renewed scrutiny, with some top Democrats arguing it positions the Black congresswoman perfectly for this moment of national reckoning, while others say it means she is deeply intertwined with the same law enforcement establishment at the center of skepticism and scrutiny.
Demings, in an interview with CNN, spoke highly of her nearly three decades with the Orlando Police Department, arguing that she became a police officer with hopes of changing an entity viewed skeptically by Black Americans from the inside. But Demings also admitted that she had not accomplished everything she had hoped to during her three years as chief from 2007 to 2011, and when asked whether a former police officer is the best person to join a presidential ticket at this time, she emphasized the two years she spent as a social worker with Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.
“If given the opportunity, number one I believe the vice president’s role is to advocate for the president’s agenda, with the president’s agenda being the people’s agenda. And I think I bring to the table on the ground experience,” Demings said. “I grew up poor in the South, female in the South, but decided to dedicate my life, based on some of the injustices and discriminations that I faced in my own life, dedicate my life to making my community better. I worked as a social worker when nobody was looking.”