Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that communities “must start showing, more than they do, the respect and support the law enforcement deserves.” After honoring 19 law enforcement officers in an awards ceremony for policing, he added, “they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Barr noted that communities would be better protected if they would reciprocate support for law enforcement. He thanked officers for their services for their “special kind of bravery,” observing that law enforcement goes beyond the work of protecting against crime and does not receive kinds of cheers similar to war veterans do.

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In response to his speech, Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, responded, “The idea that the attorney general of the United States, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is recommending abandoning communities as retribution for pushing for police reform or criticizing policing practices, is profoundly dangerous and irresponsible.”