Attorney General William Barr, during a speech at a Fraternal Order of Police conference in New Orleans on August 12, denounced liberal and progressive district attorneys who decline to prosecute nonviolent drug offenses as “anti-law enforcement” — and he is being rebuked in a letter signed by dozens of current and former prosecutors and law enforcement figures.
Barr didn’t mention anyone by name during his speech, but he appeared to be talking about some of the Democrats who signed the letter — including Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Rachael Rollins, DA in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
“We join this public statement to make clear that a growing number of criminal justice, law enforcement and prosecution leaders reject AG Barr’s perspective,” the letter stated. “We do not view our jobs as waging a ‘war’ against ‘criminal predators.’”
In addition to Krasner and Rollins, those who signed the letter include Manhattan DA Cy Vance, former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, and Kim Foxx, state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago is located in Cook County).
During his speech at the FOP event, Barr asserted, “These anti-law enforcement DAs have tended to emerge in jurisdictions where the election is largely determined by the primary.”
Barr appeared to be referring to Philadelphia, where the city government is overwhelmingly Democratic. Philly hasn’t had a Republican mayor since the early 1950s, and Republicans are seldom elected to the Philadelphia City Council. After Krasner — who aggressively campaigned on criminal justice reform and was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders — won the Democratic primary nomination in Philly’s 2017 race for district attorney, he was all but certain to win the general election.
Barr went on to say, “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.”
The letter criticizing Barr, however, stressed that progressive DAs are not anti-law enforcement — they simply want to see law enforcement resources used “wisely.”
“We hope that Attorney General Barr and other national leaders will understand what facts, data and lessons learned from the past have taught us as we work to wisely use limited criminal justice resources to promote safer and stronger communities,” the letter explained.