US Police Blast Trump's Apparent Endorsement of Excessive Force
Police departments across the United States have been accused countless times over the years of using excessive force against suspected criminals, particularly when those suspects are black.
So when US President Donald Trump told a group of law enforcement officials on Friday that they needn't "be too nice" in making arrests, he might have thought he was playing masterfully to the crowd.
And the line — "[W]hen 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," did get some laughter.
The following, "Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?
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?" did, too, plus applause.
But not every police officer or department approves of what some call an endorsement of police brutality.
Trump continued his habit of going into gruesome detail about gang violence during the speech, describing one of his favorite targets, the largely Latino gang MS-13, as a "vile cartel" and its members as "animals."
"[MS-13 members] like to knife them and cut them, and let them die slowly because that way it's more painful, and they enjoy watching that much more.
These are animals," the president said. It's not the first time he's graphically described knife violence by (the implication is) illegal immigrants in the US.
The president praised the increasing militarization of US police, saying "You know, when you wanted to take over and you used military equipment — and they were saying you couldn't do it — you know what I said?
That was my first day: You can do it," perhaps referring to the use of military equipment in the face of demonstrations following the deaths of black men in police custody in the cities of Baltimore or Ferguson.
He also said that Tom Homan, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with apprehending and deporting undocumented immigrants, "looks very nasty, he looks very mean."
"[T]hat's what I'm looking for," the president said.
Not everyone is happy at Trump's suggestion that US police and immigration officials should be mean.
The Gainesville, Florida, police department issued one of the first and clearest condemnations of Trump's remarks.
"It's the wrong message," Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP after the speech.
"The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force," he said, the Washington Post reports.
Others agree, though not every individual or department named Trump in their rebuttals.
Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement, and though they did not reference Trump my name, the association stressed that law enforcement officers are "trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect."