U.S. Attorney General William Barr said earlier this week that if some communities do not start showing more respect for cops, they might not get police protection. (See video above.)
Barr made the remarks while presenting the Third Annual Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Are Barr's comments pure nonsense? We would say yes, given that he seems to be suggesting that citizens whose taxpayer dollars fund law enforcement might not receive protection if they fail to bow sufficiently to cops. Barr also seems to ignore widely reported incidents of cops trafficking in violence against citizens, rather than offering protection. Finally, Barr's remarks are wildly out of line with the Schnauzer household's experiences with officers, which we have reported on frequently here at the blog -- and we happen to be white liberals who have been attacked by cop thugs while living in two bright red states, Alabama and Missouri -- even though it is clear black Americans receive the brunt of police misconduct.
Before I started reporting on political and legal corruption in Alabama -- much of it tied to statewide political figures, such as Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Pryor, and Doug Jones -- my wife, Carol, and I had sparkling clean records and never had experienced a significant encounter with cops. Now, we both have been physically beaten by cops and spent time in jails -- me in Alabama (for five months); Carol in Missouri (for a few hours, with her time reduced because she needed a trip to a hospital for treatment of a broken arm, courtesy of cops.)
How goofy are Barr's remarks? Well, he somehow managed to compare the experiences of today's cops with those of military troops returning home from Vietnam. A report from NBC News provides details:
During a ceremony to honor police officers, Barr said crowds applaud departing troops and show their approval for individual service members in airports, but police get no cheers when they roll out of the precinct and get no ticker-tape parades when they come home.
In the Vietnam era, he said, the troops who served in that conflict bore the brunt of people opposed to the war.
"The respect and gratitude owed them was not given, and it took decades for the American people to realize that," Barr said. It's good to see troops today getting the proper recognition, he added.
"But I think today the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement 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."
Civil-rights groups were quick to take issue with Barr, as NBC News reports:
"Support and respect are earned, not given as the result of a demand from those who carry badges and guns," said Jeffrey Robinson of the ACLU. "Attorney General Barr is telling communities across the country to bow their heads in respect to police even if those same police are violating their rights and killing people without justification."
Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, said, "The idea that the attorney general of the United States, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is recommending abandoning communities as retribution for pushing for police reform or criticizing policing practices, is profoundly dangerous and irresponsible."
Carol and I disagree with Vanita Gupta's assessment. If cops were to abandon our neighborhood, we would applaud their exit. Neither of us ever has suffered significant harm at the hands of a so-called street criminal. Cops, on the other hand, have broken into our homes twice and beaten both of us -- leaving Carol with an arm that needed about eight hours of trauma surgery for repair. We have yet to see cops make a community problem better. Multiple times, we've seen them make problems worse. Here are a few "highlights" from out experiences with cops:
* When Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor, started repeatedly trespassing on our property (along with his kids and guests), we first tried having a rational conversation with McGarity, letting him know that the trespassers from his property were not welcome on ours. When that proved fruitless, I contacted an attorney who sent written warning, and we eventually called the Shelby County Sheriff's office. We asked the officer if he would visit McGarity and explain the law to him, since we weren't able to make him understand. "We don't do that," officer Michael Greene said. "We just write reports."
* In 2013, after I reported on Rob Riley's relationship with lobbyist Liberty Duke, plus Judge Bill Pryor's ties to 1980s and '90s gay pornography, Alabama deputies started swarming our property, with officer Chris Blevins eventually breaking into our home -- without showing a warrant, indicating he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being there. -- beating me up, dousing me with pepper spray, and hauling me for a five-month stay in jail. At the time, I was the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and the only one in the western hemisphere to be jailed in 2013.
* In September 2015, Missouri deputies conducted an unlawful eviction at our duplex apartment, pointing an assault rifle at my head and slamming Carol so brutally to the ground, and yanking on her arms with such force, that they induced a comminuted fracture of her left arm -- the kind of injury that normally is seen in car crashes or other forms of intense trauma.
* Alabama cops brought a bogus resisting-arrest charge against me, and Missouri cops brought a false assault charge against Carol -- claiming she assaulted one of them, instead of the other way around. Those incidents led to court proceedings, where we watched cops lie repeatedly under oath, with at least one clear instance of perjury.
As for William Barr, it's not fully clear what he meant with his recent remarks. From HuffPost:
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification on who specifically Barr was referring to when he mentioned “communities” and what he meant by people finding themselves without police protection.
But American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments, said the attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically had a contentious relationship with law enforcement due to police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling.
“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 in a statement. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions.
“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.”
Would Barr have much concern for our experiences with cops? Probably not, based on the HuffPost report:
The attorney general has proved before that he does not support the more humane criminal justice reform that’s coming to states, counties and local jurisdictions across the country. Since taking over as attorney general in February, Barr has maintained the “tough on crime” approach that President Donald Trump has adopted.
In August, Barr told the Fraternal Order of Police ― the country’s largest police organization ― that there should be “zero tolerance for resisting police.” The attorney general gave an emotionally charged speech going after local prosecutors he accused of making police officers’ jobs more difficult because of their more progressive approaches to criminal cases.
“There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety,” Barr said in his August speech. “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.”
Barr is also behind the Justice Department’s push to reinstate the federal death penalty, something that hasn’t been put to use since 2003. The attorney general scheduled five executions for this month and the next, though a district judge ordered a preliminary injunction while some of the people Barr wants to put to death legally challenge his workaround for reinstating capital punishment at the federal level. The injunction was upheld this week by a federal appeals court. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to make a ruling.