Trump up­sets black po­lice chiefs

They say his re­cent re­mark that of­fi­cers should be ‘rough’ with sus­pects only makes cops’ jobs harder.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Jaweed Kaleem and Jenny Jarvie jaweed.kaleem@la­times.com Times staff writer Kaleem re­ported from Los An­ge­les and spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Jarvie from At­lanta.

AT­LANTA — Days af­ter po­lice widely crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Trump for telling of­fi­cers to be “rough” with peo­ple taken into cus­tody, lead­ers of a promi­nent black polic­ing group met with Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions on Tues­day to air their con­cerns that the re­marks could deepen di­vi­sions be­tween po­lice and racial mi­nori­ties.

“We are not thugs. We are pro­fes­sion­als. We fully ex­pect law en­force­ment around the coun­try to be­have as pro­fes­sion­als,” the group’s pres­i­dent, Perry Tar­rant, said af­ter meet­ing with Ses­sions.

The closed-door talk be­tween po­lice and the na­tion’s top law en­force­ment fig­ure came af­ter Ses­sions spoke pub­licly at a con­fer­ence for the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Black Law En­force­ment Ex­ec­u­tives in At­lanta, where he promised to work with black po­lice chiefs to fight crime and pro­tect civil rights.

Tar­rant, an as­sis­tant chief in Seat­tle, said he told Ses­sions about the “the po­ten­tial harm of off-the-cuff com­ments like those made by the pres­i­dent have in de­tract­ing from the le­git­i­macy [of po­lice], and de­tract­ing from the trust that lo­cal law en­force­ment and com­mu­ni­ties have.”

Civil rights ac­tivists have ac­cused Trump, who made the re­marks on Fri­day dur­ing a speech to po­lice of­fi­cers in Brent­wood, N.Y., of pro­mot­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity.

In his ad­dress, which fo­cused on com­bat­ing gang vi­o­lence, Trump said po­lice should be rough with gang sus­pects, who he de­scribed as “an­i­mals.”

“Please don’t be too nice,” he said to ap­plause. “Like when you guys put some­body in the car and you’re pro­tect­ing their head, you know the way you put their hand so they don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed some­body … you can take that hand away.”

Po­lice re­form ad­vo­cates said the pres­i­dent’s re­marks could in­crease ten­sions in neigh­bor­hoods that have be­come sites of protest in re­cent years af­ter un­armed African Amer­i­cans have died at the hands of po­lice.

Af­ter the speech, po­lice de­part­ments across the U.S., in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les’, is­sued state­ments clar­i­fy­ing that their use-of-force rules did not re­flect Trump’s com­ments.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said Mon­day that the pres­i­dent was “mak­ing a joke.”

She re­peated the de­fense on Tues­day af­ter jour­nal­ists asked about news re­ports cit­ing an email from Chuck Rosen­berg, the act­ing head of the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion, to his staff that said Trump “con­doned po­lice mis­con­duct.”

“I think you guys are jump­ing and try­ing to make some­thing out of noth­ing,” San­ders said on Tues­day. Trump “was sim­ply mak­ing a com­ment, mak­ing a joke, and it was noth­ing more than that.”

In his At­lanta speech in front of hun­dreds of black po­lice chiefs, of­fi­cers and city lead­ers, Ses­sions did not di­rectly speak to Trump’s com­ments.

His ad­dress largely stuck to themes he’s hit else­where while trav­el­ing around the na­tion talk­ing to law en­force­ment agen­cies about Jus­tice De­part­ment ef­forts to tackle vi­o­lent crime, gang ac­tiv­ity, the il­le­gal drug trade, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and vi­o­lence against po­lice.

He also ad­dressed fa­tal shoot­ings by po­lice.

“We all know the cases of the last sev­eral years where, in con­fronta­tions with po­lice, lives have been cut short,” Ses­sions said. “Just as I am com­mit­ted to de­fend­ing law en­force­ment who law­fully have to use deadly force to de­fend them­selves ... I will also use the pow­ers of the of­fice I’ve been en­trusted with to hold any of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble who vi­o­lates the law. You know that all it takes is one bad of­fi­cer to de­stroy the rep­u­ta­tions of so many.”

De­spite those words, po­lice at the At­lanta con­fer­ence said Trump’s re­marks were still among their top con­cerns.

Tar­rant said po­lice pressed Ses­sions on the is­sue when they met.

“His re­sponse to us was he was aware of the com­ment. He be­lieved it was done in jest,” Tar­rant said.

Cedric Alexan­der, deputy mayor of Rochester, N.Y., said Trump’s words un­der­mined trust.

“We feel we have to fall back and start over again. When you’re try­ing to build trust and you hear that type of in­fer­ence com­ing from the com­man­der in chief of this coun­try, it cre­ates a cer­tain anx­i­ety and fear,” Alexan­der said.

Some chiefs ex­pressed con­cern Tues­day that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pri­or­i­ties on po­lice re­form could harm ef­forts to over­haul de­part­ments that have had trou­bled re­la­tion­ships with mi­nori­ties.

Civil rights groups have said they were alarmed af­ter Ses­sions is­sued a memo or­der­ing Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials to re­view agree­ments, many that were signed un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, with po­lice de­part­ments over un­con­sti­tu­tional polic­ing, use of ex­ces­sive force and other mis­con­duct. Ses­sions has called such court-en­forced po­lice re­form agree­ments “dan­ger­ous.”

As Ses­sions spoke on Tues­day, the black law en­force­ment group’s Wash­ing­ton, D.C., chap­ter pres­i­dent, Tony Dixon, said he hoped the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would be “a lit­tle more care­ful and re­spon­si­ble” in or­der to build up re­la­tions with African Amer­i­cans.

John Amis At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion

PERRY TAR­RANT, left, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Black Law En­force­ment Ex­ec­u­tives, greets Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions at the group’s con­fer­ence in At­lanta. “We fully ex­pect law en­force­ment around the coun­try to be­have as pro­fes­sion­als,” Tar­rant said.

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