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An emerging example of not-so-benign neglect

Melvin B. Miller
An emerging example of not-so-benign neglect
“Call the police, but let’s all kneel so they feel respected.”

Attorney General William P. Barr’s attitude toward government places blacks in a very insecure position in their relations with the criminal justice system. In the days when attention to unjustified police violence against blacks was rising sharply, Barr’s predecessor Jeff Sessions put an end to consent decrees between the Department of Justice and municipal police departments. This procedure required court oversight of remedies designed to ameliorate police and community conflicts. Barr has not revived the consent decree process and is unlikely to do so.

In fact, Barr aggravated the relationship when he reportedly stated at a recent meeting of police officers and prosecutors, “Today, the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and 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 continued, “If communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without police protection.” Barr has lost sight of the affirmation that the police serve the people, and it is the duty of police to protect even the most obstreperous citizens.

With this comment, Barr has essentially supported police violence against protesters. However, with his criticism of the recent inspector general report of the FBI, he is less sympathetic to the FBI. The IG found that the circumstances justified an FBI investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

By sharing Donald Trump’s critical attitude toward the IG report, Barr avoided the presidential hostility that plagued Sessions, who properly recused himself from personal involvement in the Russian issue. Barr prefers a more authoritarian form of government, in which the attorney general and other agency heads have been appointed to execute the president’s commands. In such a system, the president would be above the law.

When viewed from a distance, these issues seem to have little direct reference to the civil rights of blacks. It is good to understand now that among those supporting authoritarianism are many racists who believe that this country belongs exclusively to those who share their cultural background.

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