President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to encourage police abuse of suspects.
Speaking before a crowd of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, Long Island, Trump urged police to not be “too nice” when dealing with 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, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” Trump said. “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?’”
The crowd met his remarks with cheers and applause.
President urges officers to commit acts of brutality, officers laugh and cheer wildly. Beginning to think problem isn't a few bad apples. pic.twitter.com/o1sSgw6lGy— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) July 28, 2017
Trump’s speech, which focused on immigration and law enforcement, offered his administration’s plan to dismantle the MS-13 gang, one of the most violent gangs in the United States.
The gang, which originated in El Salvador, has spread from Los Angeles across the United States. A particular concentration of gang members is active in Long Island, where, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says, the gang is believed to have committed at least 20 brutal murders. MS-13 is believed to have some 10,000 members across the U.S.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) condemned Trump’s conflation of gang violence and immigration during his speech in Brentwood, calling it a “cynical ploy” to “push his anti-immigrant agenda.”
“President Trump’s visit to Suffolk County is a cynical ploy to capitalize on recent headlines, cast aspersions on entire communities and push his anti-immigrant agenda. Trump’s vile rhetoric and cruel deportation machine mean that vulnerable immigrants must fear both gangs and the government at once,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “As New Yorkers, we refuse to look at each other with that kind of suspicion or contempt. As the New York Civil Liberties Union, we will continue to push back against Trump’s demonization and his deportations.”
It is in the context of gang slayings and other horrific acts of violence that Trump suggested police not treat suspects with care or respect. However, the Trump administration’s broader emphasis of “law and order” is accompanied by a disregard for civil rights violations. In February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly dismissed a major report on police abuse without reading it.
“For years and years, [laws have] been made to protect the criminal,” Trump said in Friday’s speech. “Totally protect the criminal, not the officers. You do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We’re changing those laws.”