Spotlight: Trump blasted for endorsing "brutality," damaging efforts to improve police-community tensions

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-31 13:18:35|Editor: Mengjie
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WASHINGTON, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Police departments in the United States criticized President Donald Trump after he urged police forces on Friday not to be "too nice" during arrests, as officers risk undermining efforts to alleviate tensions between the police and communities.


The criticism came after Trump on Friday gave a speech to police in Brentwood on Long Island in the state of New York, which was intended to support police in their fight against the violent street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, which has been accused of a string of bloody murders.

"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,'" Trump said during the speech amid laughter and cheers from a crowd of uniformed officers.

When calling the gangsters "animals," Trump said there was no need for police to use their hands to protect the heads of those handcuffed suspects when putting them into police vehicles.

"Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?" he said.

"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?'" Trump continued.


Trump's remarks have quickly drawn condemnation from police organizations, domestic law enforcement agencies and police officers, as many believed the U.S. president delivered a "wrong message."

The Police Foundation said though it appreciates Trump's support for law enforcement, it cannot support any commentary that undermines the trust which communities have placed in the police to protect and serve, while another nonprofit group, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said officers are trained to treat everyone with "dignity and respect."

The police department of Suffolk County where Trump delivered the controversial speech said in a statement that it has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners, warning "violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously."

In a statement released on Saturday, James P. O'Neill, the New York police commissioner, said suggestions for police officers to use alternative standards for use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary are "irresponsible, unprofessional" and "send a wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public."

Steve Soboroff, one of civilian commissioners who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), said Trump's recommendations would not be in line with LAPD policy, stressing that "it's not what policing is about today."

Gainesville police spokesman Ben Tobias rebuffed Trump's position by tweeting that he, as a cop, disagreed with the president's remarks and that those who "cheered should be ashamed." Until Sunday afternoon, his tweet has been liked more than 320,000 times.


Trump's speech in Suffolk came months after former Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) Chief James Burke was sentenced to 46 months in prison for furiously beating and yelling at a shackled suspect who allegedly stole a bag from Burke's car.

Before the revelation of Burke's scandal, the SCPD was put under federal oversight by the Justice Department, following a federal probe that exposed discrimination against Latinos and immigrants, another indication of the deep-rooted tensions between the police and communities in Suffolk.

The president's comments also resurrected memories of the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimorean whose death sparked protests and riots in the city, and triggered a nationwide debate over excessive use of force by police dealing with cases involving African Americans.

Gray was arrested, shackled and put in the back of a police van by six officers before dying of a spine injury.

"Are you kidding me? This is disgusting," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz tweeted about Trump's remarks on handling suspects, as rough policing remains a sensitive topic in the city.

Maya Wiley, chairwoman of New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board, said Trump's words would stoke fear of interacting with officers, which would damage the progress made toward improving police-community relations.