What does it mean to be “tough on crime”? It’s one thing to talk about longer sentences for violent criminals or a larger police presence in crime-ridden neighborhoods. But what about suggesting entire communities might lose police protection because of the actions of a few empty headed anti-police activists?
Attorney General William Barr gave a speech at the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing and made some controversial comments about communities that don’t respect the police.
“But 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 said. “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.”
None should question the sacrifice and service given by police officers patrolling dangerous neighborhoods. And there is certainly something to be said for showing respect for those in police uniforms who serve selflessly and put their lives on the line to protect everyone.
But if you were to ask the average police officer who works the mean streets of large cities, you would discover they accept both the love and hate of citizens with equal professionalism. No one joins the police force knowing they will win a popularity contest. They’re there to do a job — a dangerous, nearly impossible job — as well as they know how. The attitude of some citizens might bother them, but it makes little difference in how they perform in the field.
What matters a lot more are governments bending to the will of activists and putting law enforcement in a strait jacket. The majority of citizens in poorer communities might fear the police and grudgingly tolerate them. But for that, do they deserve to lose what little protection police can give them from the violent gangs and criminals who prey on them?
Barr was wrong to even suggest that local police should tie “support and respect” for law enforcement to protecting communities. It’s an insult to cops who take pride in doing a difficult job well.
The attorney general only gave political opponents an opening.
“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.”
It should be noted that nobody as a “right” to be protected by police, just as police have no right to expect “respect” from anyone.
We’ve seen in several cities in recent years governments and police forces adopting new rules that actually act as disincentives for police to act proactively in preventing crime. The fact is, many of these new rules make the people less safe and put a target on cops’ backs. Some reforms are necessary; most are designed to make a policeman’s job more difficult and dangerous.
But the answer isn’t cops refusing to patrol high-crime neighborhoods, thus exposing residents of any color to more danger. Respect or no respect, real police will do their jobs without thanks or even much support.