POLICE/PoliceMag.com Editor David Griffith - Photo: Kelly Bracken

POLICE/PoliceMag.com Editor David Griffith

Photo: Kelly Bracken

Last month U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave a speech at an awards presentation for law enforcement and he ignited a firestorm.

He told the crowd, which included lots of federal alphabet agencies and almost every national law enforcement association, that if communities don't support and respect law enforcement they "could lose police protection." After which the mainstream media, Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of liberal groups lost their minds.

They interpreted Barr's statement that he was saying if Black Lives Matter and other minority activists keep protesting police, then police protection will be withdrawn. They saw Barr's statement as an attempt to intimidate people of color from protesting police "abuse" for fear of losing all police protection. "When it comes to communities of color, (Barr) sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions," Jeb Fain of liberal super PAC American Bridge told Huffington Post.

Barr, like every member of the Trump administration, is constantly being accused of being a racist and of sounding dog whistles in his speeches that are meant to attract the attention and loyalty of white supremacists.  Which accounts for the knee-jerk reaction of so many liberals to this low-key speech about the need for Americans to show more respect for the sacrifice and service of law enforcement officers.

The attorney general's speech was characterized in the mainstream press as telling minority activists to shut up about police or the police will stop responding to calls in minority neighborhoods. But what Barr was really doing was sounding an alarm about a growing American crisis.

Officers are leaving the job for retirement or other careers faster than they can be replaced.  We are running out of police and part of the reason is the disrespect and contempt people are showing toward officers.

The crisis is, of course, not entirely caused by anti-police sentiment. Low unemployment and better salaries in the private sector are the primary factor in the nationwide shortage of officers. But anti-police sentiment is not helping.

Police have always been disparaged by criminals. But in the past, even they would not have taken it to the extremes of some people today. The reason is that in the past if you threw a bucket of water on a police officer doing his job, you would have been arrested and not gently. Today, officers have buckets of water thrown on them and they walk away with no response. Officers are so confused now as to what they can and can't do that the NYPD had to explain to its officers that it is OK to arrest people who assault them.

The water attacks are disgusting. What happened in Sacramento last summer is heinous. A 26-year-old officer named Tara O'Sullivan responded to a domestic violence call and was trying to help the victim when she was ambushed and mortally wounded. While a tactical team braved rifle fire in a desperate attempt to reach Officer O'Sullivan, officers working the perimeter were heckled by people in the neighborhood. One woman even yelled, "Whatever officer getting shot need to be." Tara O'Sullivan, 26, was bleeding out in the backyard of the domestic violence victim she had just tried to help when that woman said she deserved to die.

This is the kind of disrespect and abuse that AG Barr was referencing in his December speech. It's the kind of disrespect that is accelerating the police hiring crisis. The shortage of officers means that communities are losing their police protection, which is what Barr said.

Today only the most dedicated men and women really want to be cops. Which is great. We want passionate officers. But there are not enough of those people to fill the ranks, so agencies are lowering standards to bring in people who should not be police. Which is bad.

Even after lowering the hiring standards, many agencies can't fill their ranks. In some cities it's common for detectives and other plainclothes personnel to be sent out in uniform on patrol. In some jurisdictions it's not unusual for patrol units to field 50% of their allocated officers because they just don't have enough people to do the job.

Two weeks after his December speech, an op-ed article from AG Barr appeared in the New York Post. He used this article to clarify what he meant about communities losing police protection during his earlier speech. He talked about the hazards of the profession, the frustration of "social justice" prosecutors exposing police and the public to unnecessary danger by releasing violent criminals on the street, and he talked about the contempt the public is showing for police and its effect on law enforcement morale.

He also spelled out exactly what de-policing means for all of the American people. "Without a serious focus on officer retention and recruitment, including a renewed appreciation for our men and women in blue, there won't be enough police officers to protect us," he wrote.

And that is actually happening in America today. The crime rate is climbing, especially the murder rate, and the blue line is thinning. De-policing does not bode well for any of our communities.