Short Take: Barr Syndrome

It may well be that Attorney General Bill Barr always had impulse control issues, but they failed to make headlines. This time they did.

While speaking to a room full of law enforcement officers Tuesday night during a Justice Department award ceremony to honor distinguished service in policing, Barr made the remarks regarding those who don’t show “respect” to authority, according to The Washington Post.

“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,” Barr reportedly said.

Whether law enforcement receives exactly the amount of respect and support they deserve is a debatable question. It’s fair to argue that there are a great many who view all cops as evil, an overly simplistic and unhelpful position, given that there are bad dudes out there and, most of the time, the police perform their function sufficiently.

Bear in mind, there are a million police/citizen interactions a day, and they don’t all end in innocent people being beaten or killed. This detail is too often missed in the fury, which properly follows outrageous or banal misconduct. Too many interactions go bad, but not all and, on occasion, the police do the right thing, behave respectfully and protect and serve. It happens.

But Barr, being Barr, can’t stop himself from taking his own insipid expectation to the next level.

“if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Is that Barr’s inner mobster coming out? Nice community you got there, it would be a shame if anything happened to it? It certainly smacks of a threat that the cops, who might be on the public dole but owe no general duty to protect or even show up, might decide that they don’t like a community that doesn’t genuflect properly and leave them to their own devices.

Then again, there is a less cynical view of Barr’s message.

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.

Much as it’s true that soldiers returning from Vietnam were called “baby killers” and scorned, it’s a strained analogy at best. But then, Barr didn’t stop at demanding “respect.”

“When police officers roll out of their precincts every morning, there are no crowds along the highway cheering them on and when you go home at the end of the day, there’s no ticker-tape parade,” he said.

That’s pretty much the case for rest of us as well, and there’s a damn fine reason for it that too often eludes police. It’s their job. It’s a job they chose. The police don’t put on a shield because they love us so dearly, but because they have chosen an occupation that lets them carry a gun and order people to comply upon pain of . . ., well, maybe pain says enough.

It’s not entirely unfair to argue that the police have been unfairly demonized, as most never commit the atrocities that show up on viral videos. There are good cops, honest cops and, most importantly, cops who respect their communities and their role in them. Those inclined solely toward hating cops are little different than those inclined solely toward licking their badges.

But Barr doesn’t make that point, that there remain far too many needless beatings, arrests, killings and general abusive conduct, and that it’s his job as attorney general to not only say nice things that cops want to hear, but protect the American public from police misconduct and violation of their constitutional rights. No matter how benign his intention, Barr’s call for “respect” or else was the wrong message.

18 thoughts on “Short Take: Barr Syndrome

      1. Guitardave

        No offense to your lovely and talented proofreader. ( I do wonder if she lets one get by now and then so the pedants in the peanut gallery can have a poke at ya.)

  1. jfjoyner3

    This is the only post of yours I’ve read and concluded it missed the mark. No one is shooting at me during the performance of my professional duties. It would be ridiculous to say police don’t have that risk every time they go to work (except for desk duty). I don’t care if my comment gets posted (but I will look out for the smack down just in case) but I had to speak up. This post missed something very basic and very important, a characteristic of every other one I’ve read.

    1. Guitardave

      It would also be “ridiculous” to assume that they don’t know they may be shot at before taking the job.

          1. zoe

            “It would be a shame if your house caught on fire…somehow. And the fire department didn’t show up…for some reason.”

    2. David

      Police work is not without its dangers but loggers, fishers, pilots and roofers, and trash collection are the top 5. Police come in around 14. Many of us face danger in our chosen profession, this is not an excuse to behave badly.

  2. L. Phillips

    Overly gratuitous political comments like this are called playing to the gallery and are a lot like sex for hire. It feels good for a moment or two, means absolutely nothing and will probably cost you in the long run.

    1. SHG Post author

      This is a somewhat unusually passionate moment in time, all things considered, and Barr would have done well to control his worst sexual impulses.

    2. Guitardave

      “means nothing” ?….I’ll read me some philosophy if i want “meaning”.
      PS: Some working girls are pretty damn smart, and clean, Shitlord.

  3. B. McLeod

    I have seen a few press articles discussing known, unpoliced zones in Detroit, where people dump bodies and basically do anything else they want, because the police are afraid to go in, even in numbers.

Comments are closed.