Don’t be “too nice” to suspects, President Trump told law enforcement officers in a fiery law and order speech in Long Island on Friday.
“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” Trump told the crowd, “you just see them thrown in, rough. And I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”
He went on, “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over [so they] don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody… I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’” It’s police protocol to shield a suspect’s head when guiding them into a police car.
The crowd cheered at the president’s remarks — though critics quickly pointed out that Trump’s instructions could constitute an encouragement of police brutality. And they come at a time when police use of force is a major topic of national discussion.
During Trump’s presidential campaign, he frequently promised to bring back “law and order” to the United States. And so far, his administration has been noticeably friendlier to law enforcement than the Obama administration: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April that the Department of Justice would review dozens of consent decrees, court-ordered agreements between troubled police departments and the government that seek to ensure that police don’t violate people’s constitutional rights. Sessions has also rejected efforts to improve data collection on racial bias in policing.
Trump’s speech also touched on another of the president’s favorite themes: the supposed link between lax immigration laws and rising crime rates. Trump frequently mentioned the brutal MS-13 gang, whose members he called “animals” and which local authorities say is responsible for a number of recent murders in Long Island. MS-13 first appeared in the 1980s and was run by immigrants, primarily of Salvadoran origin, who lived in Los Angeles.
“I have a simple message for every gang member and criminal alien that are threatening so violently our people: We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you, and we will deport you,” Trump said.
Researchers have not found evidence to support the idea that undocumented people or immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than Americans born in the United States. The former police chief of Suffolk County — where Trump was speaking — was also recently sentenced to prison for crimes including violently beating a suspect.