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The day before Attorney General William Barr complained about disrespect for the police, Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that her office had identified 69 more convicted drug offenders who may have been framed by a veteran Houston narcotics officer. The skepticism that Barr decries cannot be understood without taking into account the sort of corruption that Ogg is investigating.

Speaking to police officers in Miami last Friday, Barr condemned "a deeply troubling attitude" toward police. "Far from respecting the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us," he said, overzealous critics "scapegoat and disrespect police officers and disparage the vital role you play in society."

While Barr may prefer to believe that attitude has no basis in fact, every day brings news of police officers who foster such disrespect by lying, using excessive force and abusing their power for personal gain. Although it is unfair to portray those cases as an indictment of the entire profession, the way police officials respond to such revelations often invites that conclusion.

The former officer at the center of Ogg's inquiry, Gerald Goines, was employed by the Houston Police Department for 34 years. He faces state murder charges and federal civil rights charges because he invented a heroin purchase by a nonexistent confidential informant to obtain a no-knock warrant for a 2019 raid that killed a middle-aged couple, Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, in their home on Harding Street.

As a result of that disastrous operation, which discovered no evidence of drug dealing, Ogg's office is reviewing thousands of cases handled by Goines and his colleagues in the HPD's Narcotics Division. So far prosecutors have dismissed dozens of pending cases and backed the claims of two men arrested by Goines in 2008 who were recently declared innocent.

"We need to clear people convicted solely on the word of a police officer whom we can no longer trust," Ogg said last week. But the HPD's problems clearly go beyond the crimes of one rogue cop.

Another narcotics officer, Steven Bryant, faces state and federal charges in connection with the deadly Harding Street raid because he backed up Goines' fictional story. If Goines falsely implicated people in drug crimes for a dozen years or more, it seems likely that other officers actively helped him or looked the other way, which would make their testimony suspect as well.

Goines' supervisors also deserve a share of the blame for failing to properly monitor his use of warrants, informants and department money. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who initially hailed Goines as a hero while posthumously tarring Tuttle and Nicholas as dangerous heroin dealers, has announced several belated reforms, including limits on no-knock warrants, using body cameras during drug raids and a new commitment to the oversight that HPD supervisors were supposed to provide.

Acevedo nevertheless insists that Goines' crimes did not reveal a "systemic" problem, and he wants credit for not sweeping them under the rug. "What would have been more tragic for this community, and for this department, than the incident itself is for the department to have failed to investigate it to the extent that we did," he said in a recent Texas Monthly interview.

At the same time, Acevedo wants the public to accept the inevitability of outrages such as the senseless deaths of Tuttle and Nicholas. "I don't think there's a policy or a process that can guarantee 100 percent that something like this would not happen," he said. That's the message Acevedo is sending Houstonians looking for reassurance that they can trust police to respect their constitutional rights.

After three interview questions about the biggest scandal to hit his department in decades, Acevedo lost his patience. "This is the last I want to talk about it," he said. "We need to move on to something else." That attitude is at least as troubling as the one that bothers Barr.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo by expertinfantry/ CC BY 2.0

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.