Attorney General William Barr Declares War On The General Public

from the dangerous-man-in-a-dangerous-position dept

President Donald Trump set the tone for his administration as soon as he took office. Less than a week after his inauguration, he issued this statement:

One of the fundamental rights of every American is to live in a safe community. A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.

So far, the administration has failed to end the "dangerous anti-police atmosphere" or turn "living in a safe community" into a fundamental right. Trump may back the blue, but the blue keep making things worse for themselves by refusing to alter their tactics, their "us v. them" attitude, or their routine abuse of the rights of those they're supposed to be serving.

The former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, wanted to roll back the clock for law enforcement, replacing the minor alterations of years of DOJ/law enforcement agency consent decrees with old school drug warring that shoots first and never asks questions.

Sessions is out and the new boss is in. Attorney General William Barr has already made it clear he believes tech companies should create encryption backdoors for law enforcement. Now, he's declaring war on the general public. His speech to a national police union gathering makes it clear the only people who matter are those wearing badges.

According to Barr, police officers are soldiers in a war zone.

[W]hen police officers leave their precincts every morning, there are no crowds on the highway cheering you. And when you come home at the end of the day after a job well done, there are no ticker tape parades.

One reason for this is that law enforcement is fighting a different type of war. We are fighting an unrelenting, never-ending fight against criminal predators in our society. While there are battles won and lost each day, there is never a final resolution – a final victory is never in sight.

It takes a very special kind of courage to wage this kind of fight – a special kind of commitment; a special kind of self-sacrifice.

This mindset already permeates much of law enforcement. Availing themselves of the military's surplus gear and vehicles, along with repurposed military tech, police officers have treated the neighborhoods they patrol as war zones. Anyone who isn't a cop is an enemy.

These supposed war zones have been getting safer and safer. There are a few outliers, but crime rates have been falling steadily across the nation for nearly 25 years. But you wouldn't know that from talking to cops, especially those that already look like soldiers and treat normal warrant service like a military operation.

William Barr wants a police state. He wants it because he's decided to trust the relentlessly negative propaganda spun by law enforcement, rather than the annual crime reports assembled by his own department. Barr says society is crumbling and it's up to armed men to restore order.

If people lose the values and moral discipline to control themselves, then government would increasingly have to use external force to keep order, and the community would gradually lose its freedom. This is what James Madison was talking about when he said, “We have staked our future on the ability of each of us to govern ourselves.”

We live in an age now when the institutions we have relied on to inculcate values and self-restraint have been under constant assault for over 50 years. As a result, we see about us increased social pathology: boys growing up without fathers; alienated and angry young men; gangs engaged in the most brutal violence; mass shootings; increasing mental illness and suicide among young people; a drug epidemic inflicting casualties beyond what we would sustain in a major war; growing domestic violence; an increase in sexual assaults and child exploitation.

Gang violence is down because crime rates as a whole have declined for two decades straight. Mass shootings are still a relative anomaly. If there is actually a drug epidemic, it seems ridiculous to assume doubling down on things that haven't worked for four straight decades will fix it. The police are ill-equipped -- perhaps deliberately -- to handle interactions with the mentally ill and suicidal. If domestic violence is growing, certainly law enforcement's participation in the problem isn't helping. Law enforcement agencies' inability/unwillingness to take sexual assault cases seriously has certainly contributed to this problem, but even these numbers have fallen, rather than increased.

Everything said here is either a lie or intellectually dishonest. And all of it is being used by Barr to push a narrative where cops are facing overwhelming odds with almost zero support.

Part of the problem is the mouthy citizens who demand officers be held to a higher standard.

Despite the fact that the majority of the American people do support the police, unfortunately, over the past few years, there has been an increasingly vocal minority that regularly attacks the police and advances a narrative that it is the police that are the bad guys rather than the criminals. Whenever there is a confrontation involving the use of force by police, they automatically start screaming for the officers’ scalps, regardless of the facts.

Barr says there's no problem here, other than the increase in police criticism. He even uses a popular idiom to describe what he views as a minimal issue, truncating it the way cops and their supporters always do to make it self-serving, rather than cautionary.

I am not suggesting there are never abuses. As with all human institutions there are sometimes bad apples; and we will deal with that. But these are very much the exceptions, not the rule. If anything, I continue to be amazed at the professionalism of our police officers in the most extreme circumstances.

Bad apples spoil everything in the barrel. They convert exceptions into rules. And, no, the DOJ will not "deal with that." Neither will most law enforcement agencies. Under Sessions, the DOJ stopped investigating civil rights abuses by police departments. With the feds out of the picture, local agencies are even less inclined to police their own.

There will be nothing but compliance, if Bill Barr gets his way. There will be no concerns for long-existing rights or the well-being of anyone police interact with. Why? Because cops are apparently owed respect under this DOJ. They no longer need to earn it.

The anti-police narrative is fanning disrespect for the law. In recent years, we have witnessed increasing toleration of the notion that it is somehow okay to resist the police.  

[...]

We need to get back to basics. We need public voices, in the media and elsewhere, to underscore the need to “Comply first, and, if warranted, complain later.” This will make everyone safe – the police, suspects, and the community at large. And those who resist must be prosecuted for that crime. We must have zero tolerance for resisting police. This will save lives.

This is nauseating. This is bootlicker telling a nation it needs to get busy licking boots. This is Barr telling people their rights are a distant second to efficient policing and speedy arrests.

As for your rights, only one of them may improve. According to Barr, your right to a speedy trial will attach immediately if you kill a cop.

We will be proposing legislation providing that in cases of mass murder, or in cases of murder of a law enforcement officer, there will be a timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow imposition of any death sentence without undue delay. Punishment must be swift and certain.

You get one right and you're presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Finally, Barr wants the American public to view law enforcement officers as gods among men.

One of my messages today is that the American people need to pay close attention to issues of public safety in their communities. As a society we should not take our police officers for granted.

I would like to see the American people gain a renewed appreciation of the noble work done by our police officers in protecting our communities. I would like to see increased recognition that being a police officer is the toughest job in the country, and it is getting tougher. I would like to see a greater commitment to supporting the police.

Barr can't make this happen. But if he can budge the needle a bit, more Americans will view cops as cops view themselves: powerful arbiters of justice that should never be questioned by those who pay their salaries.

This should not be taken lightly. These remarks to members of a powerful police union may seem a bit like playing it up for the home crowd, but Barr's record since he took office shows he has little interest in ensuring the Department of Justice actually lives up to its name. He taking an already-skewed perspective held by many in law enforcement and making it worse. And by his very presence, he's announcing to the nation the DOJ will side with cops in almost every situation, no matter how much abuse they engage in. He has elevated them above the people they serve and that is going to continue to harm the relationship they have with their communities, exacerbating the problems he claims he's going to eliminate.

Filed Under: civil liberties, doj, police, rule of law, william barr


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2019 @ 9:01pm

    Re: Re: All hail the conquering army!

    Overwhelming number of Americans who were raised to respect the law don't neccessarily respect police who break laws to enforce laws and are given immunity or good faith exceptions by a justice system that doesn't respect the US Constitution or the American public.


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