Attorney General William Barr apparently thinks communities that don’t show police “respect” might not deserve police at all.
It’s unclear what, exactly, Barr’s idea of demonstrating respect for police would look like, but he suggested to a room full of law enforcement that police protection should perhaps be contingent on communities showing support for police.
“But I think today, American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers,” Barr said on Tuesday at a Justice Department ceremony honoring police officers. “And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves ― and if communities don’t give that support and respect they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”
Barr compared police officers nowadays to “our brave troops” who served in Vietnam then “weren’t treated very well, in many cases, when they came home.”
Critics soon pointed out that deference to police is not a precondition for protection.
“[The] US Attorney General fails to understand police are not a protection racket,” tweeted Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director for Human Rights Watch.
Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Mimi Rocah tweeted: “These are despicable & dangerous comments from the AG, who leads law enforcement. Everyone, no matter your party, should denounce this immediately.”
Many observers also took the comments from Barr as thinly veiled jabs at communities of color that have protested police brutality. Leadership from American Bridge, a liberal lobbying and fundraising group, railed against his statements to HuffPost, which first reported on the speech from Barr.
“The attorney general isn’t being subtle and that shouldn’t surprise us considering this administration’s record,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain told HuffPost. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions.”
Fain continued: “Barr’s words are as revealing as they are disturbing ― flagrantly dismissive of the rights of Americans of color, disrespectful to countless law enforcement officers who work hard to serve their communities, and full of a continuing disregard for the rule of law.”
During the course of his tenure as attorney general, Barr has also said there must be “zero tolerance for resisting police” in a speech that complained about officers not being shown the proper respect.
Cover: In this Nov. 22, 2019, file photo, Attorney General William Barr speaks with members of the press before participating in a law enforcement roundtable at the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse in Evergreen, Mont. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)