President Donald Trump had the opportunity to address members of a police force fighting gang violence, but instead of giving any useful advice, he encouraged the officers to use excessive force against suspected criminals, which is literally the last thing the country needs right now when cases of police brutality are on a rise.
As he talked to the cops, the president could have centered his address on reforming the law enforcement, bringing in sophisticated training to make police departments more empathetic and humane forces.
However, Trump advised the cops to "rough up" suspects.
"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,'" he told the officers assembled at Suffolk County Community College. "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, OK?'"
More than 1,000 officers attended Trump’s speech. His negative comment drew applause by some uniformed officers while the others fidgeted in their seats.
His comments encouraging violence did not go down well with the people they were directed at. This is how police nationwide pushed back against the president’s mindless suggestions.
The Suffolk County Police Department
The department has distanced itself from this statement.
As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.— Suffolk County PD (@SCPDHq) July 28, 2017
Baltimore Police Department
The statements from POTUS are reminiscent of the alleged fatal violence inflicted on Freddie Gray in the back of a police car. Baltimore, the city where Gray lived and died, has been wrought with tension and resentment since his death.
"For a president of the United States to encourage the police with a wink and a nod to be violent to citizens... shows that the president is not in any way committed to justice for all people," said Bill Murphy, Freddie Gray's attorney.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis also took to Twitter to remind the president those held in custody should be held with "respect and human dignity."
Using force and handling people in custody require sound policies, sophisticated training and respect for human dignity.— Kevin Davis (@CommishKDavis) July 29, 2017
Santa Monica Police Department
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks expressed her frustration with Trump's remarks.
As the chief of an organization devoted to constitutional policing practices, I turn my back on these statements and the man making them.— Jacqueline Seabrooks (@SantaMonicaCoP) July 28, 2017
The International Association of Chiefs of Police
The association warned against normalizing police brutality.
In a statement released in the aftermath of Trump's address, it underlined the policies regarding treatment of suspects.
“The NYPD’s training and policies relating to the use of force only allow for measures that are reasonable and necessary under any circumstances, including the arrest and transportation of prisoners,” a spokesman for the New York Police Department said. “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.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters also posted a scathing tweet.
Freddie Gray's family probably wants to know if officers will protect Trump's head when he is thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) July 30, 2017
However, even now, some are not ready to condemn Trump's words.
Blue Lives Matter, an organization baffled by the hatred the police have received after the deaths of African-Americans at their hands, dismissed Trump's remarks as jokes.
"Do these people actually realize that this was a joke and not a policy change? It seems not," the statement on the organization's website read.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest union of police officers in the country that supported Trump during his campaign, also defended his mindless comments, claiming it was all in humor and suggested the president of the country should not be taken seriously.
"The president's off the cuff comments on policing are sometimes taken all too literally by the media and professional police critics," the union's president, Chuck Canterburry, told BuzzFeed News. "The president knows, just as every cop out there knows, that our society does not, and should not, tolerate the mistreatment or prejudgment of an individual at any point in the criminal justice process."
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst