Trump re­mark draws po­lice ‘whoa’

No ‘rough­ing up’ pris­on­ers, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials say

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - BRIAN M. ROSEN­THAL

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s state­ment that po­lice should not be “too nice” while transporting sus­pects drew laugh­ter and cheers from a crowd of of­fi­cers Fri­day, but po­lice of­fi­cials swiftly made it clear that they did not find the words funny.

From New York to Los An­ge­les, law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties crit­i­cized the pres­i­dent’s re­marks. Ex­perts wor­ried that his words would en­cour­age in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of force.

The crit­i­cism on­line started shortly af­ter Trump made his com­ments at an event in Brent­wood, N.Y. The re­marks were in­tended to of­fer sup­port for po­lice in their fight against the La Mara Sal­va­trucha, or MS-13, a gang that has been ac­cused of sev­eral killings on Long Is­land.

Af­ter call­ing for more im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers to help ar­rest the gang mem­bers, Trump told of­fi­cers, “Please don’t be too nice.”

“Like when you guys put some­body in the car, and you’re pro­tect­ing their head, you know, the way you put your hand over” the head, he said, putting his hand atop his head in a de­mon­stra­tion. “You can take the hand away, OK?”

The pres­i­dent’s re­mark was de­nounced by po­lice of­fi­cials and or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice, the Po­lice Foun­da­tion and Steve Sobo­roff, one of the civil­ian com­mis­sion­ers who over­sees the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment.

“What the pres­i­dent rec­om­mended would be out of pol­icy in the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment,” Sobo­roff told the Los An­ge­les Times. “It’s not what polic­ing is about to­day.”

In New York, the Suf­folk County Po­lice Depart­ment, which had of­fi­cers who at­tended Trump’s speech, re­sponded within two hours.

“As a depart­ment, we do not and will not tol­er­ate rough­ing up of pris­on­ers,” the depart­ment said on Twit­ter. The depart­ment “has strict rules & pro­ce­dures re­lat­ing to the han­dling of pris­on­ers,” it said in an­other post. “Vi­o­la­tions of those rules are treated ex­tremely se­ri­ously.”

The White House did not re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment Sat­ur­day. Some sup­port­ers ral­lied to Trump’s de­fense, in­clud­ing the po­lice group Blue Lives Mat­ter, which said on Twit­ter that the re­mark was ob­vi­ously a joke.

Trump’s words were par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive in Suf­folk County.

The county’s Po­lice Depart­ment agreed to fed­eral over­sight in 2013 af­ter it was ac­cused of dis­crim­i­nat­ing against His­pan­ics. And a for­mer po­lice chief, James Burke, was sen­tenced in Novem­ber to 46 months in fed­eral prison for beat­ing up a man who had stolen a duf­fel bag con­tain­ing pornog­ra­phy and sex toys from Burke’s car, and for at­tempt­ing to cover up the as­sault and other mis­deeds. Other of­fi­cers also pleaded guilty in that case.

On Sat­ur­day, Matthew Tuohy, a crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney in Suf­folk County, said that while he be­lieved the pres­i­dent’s re­marks were in­tended to be hu­mor­ous, the re­ac­tion from of­fi­cers in the crowd “ex­em­pli­fies the mind­set and to­day’s cul­ture” in law en­force­ment on Long Is­land.

In New York City, the pres­i­dent’s com­ment and the re­ac­tion from the crowd re­called the days of for­mer Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani, who was ac­cused at times of ig­nor­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior by po­lice. Be­fore be­com­ing mayor, he op­posed a pro­posal to cre­ate a civil­ian board to re­view po­lice con­duct and fa­mously ral­lied a rowdy de­mon­stra­tion of of­fi­cers against the idea.

In a state­ment Sat­ur­day, New York Po­lice Com­mis­sioner James P. O’Neill said the depart­ment’s train­ing and poli­cies about the use of force “only al­low for mea­sures that are rea­son­able and nec­es­sary un­der any cir­cum­stances, in­clud­ing the ar­rest and trans­porta­tion of pris­on­ers.”

“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,” he added.

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