Not all police officers are here for President Donald Trump’s casual endorsement of police brutality when he encouraged officers to be rough with suspects in a speech Friday to officers on Long Island, N.Y.
Days after Trump’s controversial comments (when aren’t they ever controversial?), leaders of a leading black policing group met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to voice their concerns about how the comments could deepen the division between police and minority groups.
“We are not thugs. We are professionals. We fully expect law enforcement around the country to behave as professionals,” said Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
The closed-door meeting between Sessions and NOBLE came after Sessions spoke publicly at a conference held by the group in Atlanta, where the attorney general promised to work with black police chiefs to fight crime and protect civil rights, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Tarrant, who also serves as assistant police chief in Seattle, said that he voiced his concerns to Sessions that “the potential harm of off-the-cuff comments like those made by the president have in detracting from the legitimacy [of police], and detracting from the trust that local law enforcement and communities have.”
Off-the-cuff remarks are one thing; the ignorance the president displayed Friday is another.
The president readily voiced that police should be rough with gang suspects, whom he described as “animals.”
“Please don’t be too nice,” Trump said during his remarks. “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?’”
After the president’s speech, police departments across the nation issued statements clarifying that their use-of-force policies did not reflect Trump’s comments.
By Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president had been “making a joke.” That’s quite a joke, however, considering the widespread police brutality that the nation has grappled with over recent years.
“I think you guys are jumping and trying to make something out of nothing,” Sanders reiterated Tuesday. The president “was simply making a comment, making a joke, and it was nothing more than that.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, during Sessions’ speech in Atlanta, the attorney general did not directly address Trump’s comments, although he did brush on fatal shootings by police.
“We all know the cases of the last several years where, in confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,” Sessions said. “Just as I am committed to defending law enforcement who lawfully have to use deadly force to defend themselves. ... I will also use the powers of the office I’ve been entrusted with to hold any officer responsible who violates the law. You know that all it takes is one bad officer to destroy the reputations of so many.”
Still, despite Sessions’ seemingly good faith, the Times notes that officers now feel as if Trump’s words have done damage.
“We feel we have to fall back and start over again. When you’re trying to build trust and you hear that type of inference coming from the commander in chief of this country, it creates a certain anxiety and fear,” said Cedric Alexander, deputy mayor of Rochester, N.Y., past national president of NOBLE and a member of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.