Attorney General Bill Barr continued carrying water for President Donald Trump and the conservative agenda this week by delivering a speech in which he declared war on district attorneys who care about social justice.
During a speech to a police conference in New Orleans, Barr accused progressive prosecutors of being “dangerous” and that they allegedly undercut the police and refuse to enforce the law.
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“There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety,” Barr said. “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.”
Of course, prosecutors have discretion when it comes to what cases they will bring to court. This is how criminal justice reform starts at the local and state level because district attorneys can refuse to prosecute an unjust case, such as when the police arrest a black person for possessing marijuana even though marijuana is not a dangerous drug.
“These anti-law enforcement DAs have tended to emerge in jurisdictions where the election is largely determined by the primary,” Barr continued. “Frequently, these candidates ambush an incumbent DA in the primary with misleading campaigns and large infusions of money from outside groups.”
Notice how Barr conveniently demonizes progressives while ignoring the real misleading campaigns and outside cash right-wing candidates often employ against their opponents.
“Once in office, they have been announcing their refusal to enforce broad swathes of the criminal law,” Barr claimed. “Most disturbing is that some are refusing to prosecute cases of resisting police. Some are refusing to prosecute various theft cases or drug cases, even where the suspect is involved in distribution. And when they do deign to charge a criminal suspect, they are frequently seeking sentences that are pathetically lenient. So these cities are headed back to the days of revolving door justice. The results will be predictable. More crime; more victims.”
That’s just not true and Barr knows it. He is demanding prosecutors ignore their job of seeking justice in favor of an authoritarian system. Prosecutors should not be forced to prosecute a case. And resisting the police is increasing because cops are engaging in brutal tactics. People are resisting because they don’t want to die. After all, even when young black men are not resisting, they still get beaten, or worse, even killed.
In many of these case, police get away with their crimes because a prosecutor chose not to bring charges. Is Barr going to do something about that?
Rights advocates condemned Barr’s speech.
If by “anti-law enforcement,” Barr means that a wave of new prosecutors are against the racist, classist, mass incarceration machine that has made America the world’s biggest jailer – we hope he’s right.
The data is clear: Voters want a new kind of prosecutor. https://t.co/MA8s77lH3R
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 12, 2019
This is absolutely despicable. Barr bringing the weight of his law enforcement bully pulpit against progressive prosecutors. https://t.co/cgSTL44Dw9
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) August 12, 2019
Let’s not forget that Barr himself is ignoring the fact that President Donald Trump obstructed justice and is currently investigating the FBI and refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. But, yes, please continue to lecture us about how law enforcement isn’t getting the support they need and how progressive prosecutors are supposedly ignoring the law and are not tough enough on crime.
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