The Suffolk County Police Department wants its cops to know that they shouldn’t listen to President Donald Trump’s directions. Hours after the commander in chief seemed to endorse police brutality during a speech at a Long Island community college by calling on cops to be a little less nice to suspects, the police department begged to disagree. The Suffolk County Police Department said it “will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners” and made sure to note that violations are taken “extremely seriously.”
The department issued the statement after Trump told police officers “don’t be too nice” during a speech that was largely about combating criminal gangs. “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 president said.
Many of the gathered police officers cheered and clapped Trump’s seeming endorsement of police brutality. That was particularly galling considering the president spoke to an audience made up of officers from the Suffolk County Police Department, whose former chief was sentenced to prison for beating a suspect. The department has also been under federal oversight for years due to claims that it regularly discriminates against Latinos and immigrants.
Human rights groups and activists immediately condemned Trump’s words as well, saying they were particularly troubling at a time when police departments across the country are facing scrutiny for the excessive use of violence. “By encouraging police to dole out extra pain at will, the president is urging a kind of lawlessness that already imperils the health and lives of people of color at shameful rates,” said Jeffery Robinson, ACLU’s deputy legal director. Zeke Johnson, the senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA noted Trump’s “inflammatory and hateful speech will only escalate tensions between police and communities.”