President Donald Trump told police officers on Friday not to be “too nice” while transporting suspects — a statement supportive of police brutality, according to various law enforcement officials around the country.
Some officers are already pros in Trump’s suggested tactics, such as the Baltimore cops who transported Freddie Gray during his 2015 arrest, which resulted in his death. But, New Orleans’ Chief of Police Michael Harrison said the president’s statements stand in “stark contrast” with the ethics of his police department.
Trump addressed officers at an event in Brentwood, N.Y., located in Suffolk County, regarding La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. The gang has been accused of several murders on Long Island. Trump suggested cops use aggressive tactics during arrests like not protecting the heads of handcuffed suspects being put in the back of a car.
“Please don’t be too nice,” Trump exclaimed. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” the president continued. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, okay?’”
The officers responded with cheers and applause.
Trump also glorified the forceful tactics of immigration officers. For the past few years, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), one of the largest and highest paid police departments in the country, has been monitored by the Department of Justice. A federal investigation exposed a pattern of anti-immigrant violence.
But, to avert further spotlight on its policing practices, on Friday afternoon the department said in response to Trump’s statements that they do not tolerate the “roughing up of prisoners.”
The New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill also issued a statement against Trump’s call for violence.
To “suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public,” O’Neill said.
On social media, law enforcement leaders around the country have also been speaking out against Trump’s suggestion for violent tactics.
Chief of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Michael Harrison tweeted a statement Saturday:
“The president’s comments stand in stark contrast to our department’s commitment to constitutional policing and community engagement,” Harrison said.
The NOPD has been working with the Department of Justice on policing reforms.
Ben Tobias, a police officer and Gainesville police spokesman, directly addressed Trump’s statements:
The Gainesville Police Department also issued an official tweet:
“It is our sworn duty to protect people from unjustified violence and harm, no matter who disagrees,” the Burlington, Vt., Police Department tweeted on Saturday.
According to The Counted, a tracker by The Guardian, in 2015, young Black men in the U.S. were killed by police officers at a rate five times higher than white men of the same age — a total of 1,134 deaths.
That is the same year Freddie Gray died in Baltimore after he was arrested and put in the back of a police van.
In response to Trump’s statement, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz tweeted:
However, The Baltimore Police Department did not issue an immediate response.
“That these men were HONORED is akin to a modern day lynching party.”
U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) tweeted on Saturday evening: