Playing to an audience of police officers in New York, Trump urged them to be “rough” with “thugs.” Some saw it as a joke, but most professional law enforcement organizations aren’t laughing. Many groups decried the comments, suggesting they displayed Trump’s indifference to the fraught politics of policing.
Police organizations sternly pushed back over the weekend after President Trump appeared to sanction police brutality in a speech Friday to an audience that included members of the Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Department. “As a cop for the past 40 years, I was appalled when I heard the president of the United States condone injuring an individual in police custody,” said J. Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and police chief in Montgomery County, Md. “This
violates our Constitution, our department policy, and the public trust.” A number of police departments issued similar statements, and the ACLU and NAACP, among others, decried Trump’s comments. Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama administration, called Trump’s comments “unconscionable.” She said, “His remarks undermine the positive efforts of local law enforcement agencies and communities around the country working to address police misconduct and build community-police trust.”
Trump traveled to the Long Island town of Brentwood to talk about the problem of MS-13 gang violence, but he embarked on a tangent with advice for how cops ought to treat crime suspects, reports the New York Times. “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,'” Trump said. Playing to the police crowd, he continued, “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know…Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?” The officers, staged behind him in dress uniforms and white gloves, applauded and cheered.