People should treat the police with the same respect they would show the military, the nation’s top legal expert said on Dec. 3.

Attorney General William P. Barr is concerned not enough citizens are treating law enforcement officers with enough reverence. Barr suggested the way some police officers are treated reminded him of the way many surviving Vietnam War servicemen were booed and spat on when they returned from the battlefield.

“In the Vietnam era our country learned a lesson. I remember that our brave troops who served in that conflict were not treated very well in many cases when they came home,” Barr said during the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing ceremony at the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department Building in Washington. “Sometimes they bore the brunt of people who were opposed to the war and the respect and gratitude owed them was not given, and it took decades for the American people finally to realise that.”

He believes the nation must recognize the great “sacrifice” and “service” law enforcement officers make to keep neighborhoods safe.

“The American people have to focus on something else … and they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves,” the attorney general said.

Barr suggested police officers should receive the same appreciation as soldiers at airports.

” I am very happy today when I am at the airport and troops come through, coming back or being deployed,” he said. “Frequently everything stops and we get applause because people realize that is the right thing to do for those people who are serving us.”

Barr cautioned citizens not to take the police service for granted as resources are being stretched to the limit to cope with the high volume of reported crimes.

“If communities do not give that support and respect, they might [one day] find themselves without the police protection they need,” he said.

This year’s Justice Department awards recognized the outstanding leadership and exceptional community work of a total of 19 law enforcement officers and deputies who are stationed at some 12 jurisdictions across the United States.

“A final victory is never in sight and yet you continue to perform your duty of protecting the community day in and day out, and that takes a very special type of courage to wage this kind of fight,” the attorney general said. “A special kind of commitment, a special kind of sacrifice.”