Criminal Justice

Trump says officers should 'not be too nice' when transporting suspects

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President Donald Trump/

Police officials and law enforcement organizations are denouncing President Donald Trump’s comments during a speech on Friday that police should not be “too nice” when transporting suspects.

In a speech to law enforcement officials on New York’s Long Island and published by the Washington Post, Trump said it’s crucial that Congress fund the hiring of 10,000 additional immigration officers to root out criminal cartels and the MS-13 gang.

“Now, we’re getting them out anyway,” Trump said, “but we’d like to get them out a lot faster. And when you see these towns and 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. [Laughter.] 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? [Laughter and applause.]”

The comment spurred denunciation, report the Washington Post and the New York Times. The International Association of Chiefs of Police released a statement stressing the need for police to treat all people with respect. Several police departments and chiefs released similar statements.

Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, told the Washington Post that the president’s words were harmful to police departments that are trying to rebuild trust. The reaction of officers at the event also complicates those efforts, he added. “It sort of reinforces that there’s sort of a wink and a nod about these things, when that’s simply not the case,” he said.

Blue Lives Matter, however, tweeted that “Trump didn’t tell police to go out & brutalize people as the media would have you believe. It was a joke.”

A criminal defense lawyer in New York state, Matthew Tuohy, agreed in an interview with the New York Times that the remark was intended to be humorous. The reaction from officers in the crowd, however, “exemplifies the mind-set and today’s culture” in law enforcement on Long Island, he said.

Tuohy said that, hypothetically, he would use the video in a case of civil police brutality or to discredit an officer’s testimony in a criminal case.

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