Attorney General William Barr told a group of law enforcement officials that if certain communities don’t give cops the respect they deserve, they may find themselves without police protection, HuffPost reports.
On Tuesday night, Barr gave out the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. During the ceremony, Barr gave a speech in which he mentioned his thoughts on how certain communities don’t give law enforcement the respect Barr believes is deserved.
“[Americans] 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 didn’t specify which communities he was referring to, or the ways in which they might be denied police protection if they don’t show the appropriate amount of respect.
HuffPost writer Sanjana Karanth noted that this type of rhetoric is par for the course for Barr. It also mimics the “tough on crime” image that Donald Trump likes to present. It’s emblematic, Karanth continued, of Barr’s resistance to criminal justice reform at the local level.
For example, in August, Barr accused progressive politicians, keen to curtail some of the excesses of the criminal justice systems, of “undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook and refusing to enforce the law.”
At the time, Democrat Steve Descano was running for commonwealth attorney in Fairfax County, Virginia, where Barr lives. Descano had campaigned on a platform that included efforts aimed at ending mandatory minimums, ending the death penalty, stopping the prosecution of marijuana possession cases, and directing prosecutors not to seek cash bail.
In a speech he gave to the Fraternal Order of Police, which can be found on the Justice Department’s website, Barr made it clear that he had little patience for this type of criminal justice reform.
“There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety. That is the emergence in some of our large cities of District Attorneys that style themselves as ‘social justice’ reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook, and refusing to enforce the law,” he said at the time.
Jeb Fain, a spokesperson for liberal PAC American Bridge, called Barr’s comments “disturbing.”
“[Barr’s words are] 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,” he said.
American Bridge also speculates that the “communities” Barr was referencing are low-income cities and neighborhoods, populated largely by people of color, where members have a “contentious” relationship with law enforcement due to racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration.
Barr, for his part, has mentioned at least one community by name: in his August speech to the Fraternal Order of Police, Barr referenced individuals in New York City, whom he called “prancing punks,” who threw buckets of water on NYPD officers in various incidents that had taken place over the summer.
In addition to his apparent opposition to criminal-justice reform efforts at the local level, Barr appears to have leveraged his position as Attorney General to adopt a tougher stance on crime at the federal law-enforcement level as well. For example, he’s campaigned for bringing back the federal death penalty, which hasn’t actually been used on a federal convict since 2003. He’s already scheduled five federal executions for the next couple of months, although those executions appear to be on hold while Barr appeals to the Supreme Court.