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.

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Comments on “Attorney General To Law Enforcement Critics: Good Luck Getting A Cop When You Need One”

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72 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

His comments about the military don’t help his case, either. You can’t split soldiers from the soldiering. Disapproving of a war means disapproving of the military fighting that war, even if they are “following orders” from the Commander-in-Chief. That sucks for the soldiers, yes. But they chose to serve. Any lack of respect is a price they pay for their choice.

The same principle applies to policing. We can point to examples of “good” cops and “good” actions they perform. But the phrase “all cops are bastards” exists because of the overall image of American policing. Cops don’t deserve undying fealty from citizens because of a uniform. Any disrespect they face is a price they pay for being a cop.

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Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That sucks for the soldiers, yes. But they chose to serve. Any lack of respect is a price they pay for their choice.

This article was talking about the Vietnam War era. The draft was in place until 1973. 2.2 million American men were drafted into the military between 1964 and 1973 to fight in Vietnam. They didn’t "choose" to serve, it was mandated.

I just wanted to clarify that point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Wrong

I wonder how voluntary it is, given the state of the economy facing a large portion of the public, one might feel forced to consider the service as an option when no one will pay you a living wage or there are no jobs.
If the service members are treated like mercenaries their ranks may decease and I doubt the draft will be met with approval from that same public.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"The same principle applies to policing. We can point to examples of “good” cops and “good” actions they perform. But the phrase “all cops are bastards” exists because of the overall image of American policing. "

When the odds of an innocent US citizen getting shot by a police officer is 9 times higher than being shot by a terrorist it means there’s a massive problem to address.

And the way every official keeps denying the police have a problem only adds weight to that overall image of american policing you point out.

Personally I think it’s absolutely terrifying that a nation is sitting on it’s ass and refusing to see an issue when normal law enforcement turns out to be a worse hazard than actual terrorists and no one in power has the moral courage to address the rot.

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s silly to even attempt to explain what the best possible interpretation of the speech was because there’s no chance in hell Barr meant it in the best possible way. This was a mafia thug speech suggesting that "it would be unfortunate if something bad happened to this nice little neighborhood you got here, so you better pay some respect to the gentlemen to whom you pay protection money or maybe you’ll need protection from them."

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

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.

Maybe if the cops in South Florida had done that, two innocent people might still be alive.

The worst interpretation of Barr’s comments is this: cops are a criminal organization running a protection racket.

The sitting president acts like a mob boss. One of his underlings applying mob logic to the cops does not surprise me.

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Norahc (profile) says:

Cops have no one ro blame but themselves for how rhe public views them.

From union protecrionists, para-military operations where innocents are killed in the name of the First Rule of Policing, violating the law and the Constitution with no penalties, to the Blue Wall. Individually our society could and has tolerated each, but now their cumulative weight is more than we’re willing to bear without addrssing them.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

The mask has been removed, the last scraps of gloves taken off

The one ever-so-slight silver lining is that at least he’s entirely stopped pretending to be on the public’s side, and has made it crystal clear that the only people he gives a damn about are the thugs in uniform. Better an honest crime boss than a dishonest one, even if the difference is only a slight one.

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

One could only hope...

If he’s thinking of the disrespectful communities I’m thinking of in which the police go in and get their aggro on for loiterers and jaywalkers and black drivers (all the while taking four hours to arrive at a domestic incident or a medical emergency) then one can only hope Barr means to evacuate those regions of police presence.

In such towns the neighborhood watch (often regarded as street gangs in FBI’s groups and sects files) already do the legwork when it comes to dealing with domestic violence and neighborhood antagonism. Local precincts couldn’t be bothered.

I suspect by this Barr means the beatings and shootings will continue and escalate until morale improves and every citizen gives cruisers a snappy salute as they drive by. But really, in a lot of districts, the local law enforcement just get in the way of the alternatives that have surfaced, and they bully the vulnerable.

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Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

  • Protection from whom? I have read that some claim they are more afraid of the police than they are of the street criminals.
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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Above reproach

Well, if his recent Notre Dame lecture informs, he’s a fanatic Ecclesiastes 8:2 Catholic eager to restore the US to monarchy and feudalism and the divine right of kings.

Police officers (by that argument) are the hand of authority, and thus are God’s favored.

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mephistophocles (profile) says:

I'm cool with this

Given the level of "service" most cops provide, they don’t want to do their jobs anymore? AWESOME. Good riddance. I’d rather have the mob, triads, or <insert your big organized gang here> who will move in when the cops move out. Why? Because at least I know if I pay Vinnie the protection money, he will watch my back, and he won’t let his goons mess with me either. The mob can’t afford to take the money and then not follow through; doing that shit means nobody will pay you anymore.

And they shoot straight (when they feel the need to shoot anyone, which is hell of a lot less frequent than the average inner-city cop), and won’t randomly whack my mentally handicapped kid in the front yard because he "had a gun" and they "felt threatened," or randomly frisk me for cash and valuables in the street, or stop me in a car for a random shakedown claiming I was speeding or some other goddamn bullshit reason, or digitally rape my spouse’s anus because they "smelled weed." Or blow the hell out of my house with grenades and armored vehicles because there was an unarmed burglar in it, they think, maybe. I could go on. And yes, those are all real-life examples I’m too lazy to look up the references for right now.

Point is, I’m not seeing the problem here.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Gimme a minute

The real joke about that is this;

"Quis Custodes ipsos Custodiet?"

  • Some roman satirist.

Rome didn’t introduce a formal police force until Augustus, after Caesar had turned the republic into an empire. before that time no roman senator believed a man could be given power over his peers and be trusted not to abuse it.

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TKnarr (profile) says:

Newly-elected mayor to the police department: "And you have to start showing, more than you do, the respect and support that the communities you serve deserve―and if you don’t give that support and respect, you might find yourselves without the jobs you enjoy. The voters have had it up to here with the police acting like the Pinkerton Agency and being more of a threat than the criminals are, and dealing with the problem the way the Pinkerton Agency was dealt with is one of the options on the table."

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Anonymous Coward says:

Would I like to answer a few questions for you, Agent Smith?

Well… how about I ask a few of my own first?
1) did you know that lying to a federal officer (and in many jurisdictions a state or county one) is called "obstruction of justice"?
2) did you know that many officers do not record conversations, only jotting down what they think they remembered, sometimes weeks after said conversation?
3) did you know that officers can lie to people they are questioning, like you did just then, and it gets called "a valid interrogation technique"?
4) Is there really, truly, any valid reason that I should answer any of your questions that I am not required to under law, with or without my lawyer present?
5) Will you now get your foot out of my door?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Its simple. If we are not pointing a weapon at the cops, they owe us common courtesy and basic respect. When that becomes the default way for them to treat us when interacting with us they will get it in kind without a need to ask. It already happens in all the cases you see cops treating us as fellow human beings.

I quite remember a case where the cops helped a lady deliver a baby back in the 90’s it made the news and it was heartwarming because the cops showed kindness and empathy that you seldom see in modern police interactions.

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keithzg (profile) says:

Half measure

It’d be a good first step, but to fully fix policing we first need to fire all of them, otherwise the toxic culture will persist. Then we can start slowly and carefully hiring new police, while prioritizing providing funding and other support for community-run organizations instead of "traditional" policing.

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peter says:

"…they might find themselves without the police protection they need"

Hang on a minute. Isn’t it already established that the police don’t have any duty in law to protect you anyway?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia

https://mises.org/power-market/police-have-no-duty-protect-you-federal-court-affirms-yet-again

So what is Barr threatening here? "Respect us or we won’t do what we needn’t do anyway"

Anonymous Coward says:

i thought the main object of becoming a Police Officer was ‘To Protect And Serve’. by that, i made the assumption that it was us, the public who they were supposed to ‘protect and serve’, not themselves or members of other security services! and it shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be those at the top of the security services tree stating that the public would NOT be protected and served unless they ignored everything the police did that was actually illegal or protected themselves instead of the public or gave them ‘the rights’ to ignore the plight of one member of the public in favor of another member, just because it can! the police have duties to carry out and if they are not prepared to carry them out, they shouldn’t be police officers. joining this elite band of men and women for personal gain only is nothing less than disgraceful! think back to the 1930s when things started to go down this road in a European country and what that led to. now, the very thing that was fought against because of how despicable that was, seems to be happening here!

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