Attorney General To Law Enforcement Critics: Good Luck Getting A Cop When You Need One
from the pulling-the-veil-off-the-threats dept
Attorney General Barr to America: Fuck you, you ungrateful bastards. You’re on your own.
Attorney General Bill Barr suggested in a speech Tuesday night that continued police protection for certain “communities” in the United States could ultimately depend on those communities showing more “respect and support” for law enforcement.
More specifically, vis-a-vis the general public being invited to go fuck itself:
“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 told the crowd. “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.”
There are a few ways to read the AG’s comments. We’re welcome to any one of them because neither the AG nor the DOJ has offered any clarifying comments on Barr’s comments, which read like a veiled threat to communities that don’t show the proper amount of respect.
The very most charitable way to read this statement by Barr still does no favors to cops. Elliot Hannon of Slate suggests it might link back to comments Bill Barr has made about America’s least popular war.
A more benign interpretation of Barr’s comments is: If police are vilified, it is harder to get people to do police work, which, in turn, could make it difficult?or even impossible?to perform the vital functions of law enforcement anywhere. Hence, communities could end up with inadequate policing services. Barr’s reference during his speech?and in previous remarks?to how soldiers were treated returning home from the Vietnam War suggests this reading. “In the Vietnam era, our country learned a lesson. I remember that our brave troops who served in that conflict weren’t treated very well in many cases when they came home, and sometimes they bore the brunt of people who were opposed to the war,” he said. “The respect and gratitude owed to them was not given. And it took decades for the American people finally to realize that.”
Even if we are to assume this “benign” interpretation is more aligned with Barr’s meaning than the less charitable (but possibly more accurate) interpretations we’ll soon be delving into, this is Barr equating domestic law enforcement officers with soldiers returning from a war. It’s an interpretation that buys into the self-delusion so common to law enforcement today. Rather than recognize they’re public servants there to protect and serve the public, they’ve decided they’re soldiers in a war zone surrounded by enemies. This should be an awkward position. Somehow it isn’t. The people cops consider enemies are the same ones making sure their paychecks clear.
That’s the most charitable reading: that cops are vets of the New Vietnam — persecuted by the uncomprehending masses who churlishly refuse to be grateful for all the freedom secured by law enforcement blood.
Here are the more awful alternatives, in descending order of awfulness.
Option 1: Barr is suggesting cops will engage in “work slowdown” if they’re not properly appreciated for the work they do. As community pressure to improve relations increases, cops will respond by doing less enforcement. If the line between regular cop business and the sort of shit that might result in discipline is no longer afforded the level of ambiguity cops have become accustomed to, they’ll walk away from anything that might reflect badly on them should they choose to intervene in the manner they’ve become accustomed to.
This translation of Barr’s remarks makes cops look like criminals of opportunity. (And they make Barr look like a union boss.) When the going gets tough, the self-appointed toughs get slacking. When public opinion and a lack of oversight favors applications of excessive force and routine rights violations, cops are willing to work. When they don’t, cops won’t.
The worst interpretation of Barr’s comments is this: cops are a criminal organization running a protection racket. If citizens aren’t willing to cough up enough respect, cops will no longer act as protectors. It’s pretty close to the interpretation directly above this. The difference, though, is this: the relationship between cops and the people they’re supposed to serve is not one of mutual respect. It’s a one way street “guarded” by extortionists.
This may be what Barr is implying. It’s not surprising he won’t own up to it if it is. These comments were given to law enforcement members gathered to receive service awards. The choir got what it came for: an affirmation of their elevation above the people they serve, no matter which interpretation of Barr’s comments you select.
This is dangerous stuff. This isn’t just Barr big-upping his fellow cops. This is Barr telling cops they’re more equal than the people who employ them. This is Barr saying cops are heroes even when so many are undeserving of this title. This is ugly and it’s going to make what’s already a problem even worse. Law enforcement officers have spent decades cultivating an “us vs. them” attitude that has nothing to do with cops and robbers, and everything to do with separating themselves further from anyone who could hold them accountable for their actions. Barr has affirmed their “rightness” and he’s demonstrated he’ll back the blue, no matter how much damage it does to the communities these officers serve.