Bill Barr worries about ‘demonized’ police, impact on officers’ morale

Attorney General William Barr said Sunday he’s concerned the heated debate around policing in the country will deter people from either joining or staying with police departments.

“I was concerned even before these pressures that we were having difficulty maintain the levels of police we need in our cities, retaining them,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “Obviously, this environment, where they’re demonized, will deter a lot of people from continuing to serve as police. And, also, I’m concerned of the effect, that they may pull back some of their enforcement activities and not take those risks.”

“I think it could lead, as it’s led in other situations, to an actual increase in violent crime and more deaths,” he added.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited a renewed debate about excessive use of force and race relations in the country.

Mr. Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed after a white officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Ms. Taylor was shot multiple times in her apartment after officers entered at night, on the basis of a “no-knock” warrant.

Mr. Barr said there is racism in the country, but it’s not a systemic issue.

“There has been longstanding distrust of law enforcement. And that partly comes out of the fact that, for much of our history, our laws were explicitly discriminatory,” he said. “And for the past few decades, we have been reforming our institutions to make sure they reflect our values. And the police have been engaged in that. And we shouldn’t let this incident and the actions of a bad few obscure the fact that the police have made a lot of progress.”

Mr. Barr claimed that cases of unarmed black men shot by police were dropping compared to five years ago.

Though he acknowledged that, in regards to the criminal justice system, there was room for improvement in giving equal sentencing or opportunities to clear a record to black Americans.

The White House and lawmakers across the political divide on Capitol Hill are acting swiftly to address the heated demands for changes to policing across the country.

Mr. Barr cautioned against changes to qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits while acting in their official capacity. While Democrats are looking to limit that protection, the White House has made it a red-line in negotiations.

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