One day after President Donald Trump drew cheers and applause from a crowd of police officers by urging them not to be “too nice” to suspected criminals, the commissioner of the New York Police Department denounced Trump’s comments as sending “the wrong message.”
“The NYPD’s training and policies relating to the use of force only allow for measures that are reasonable and necessary under any circumstances, including the arrest and transportation of prisoners,” commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement.
“To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”
Trump had been addressing law enforcement officials in Brentwood, New York, on Friday when he departed from remarks on his administration’s efforts to dismantle the street gang MS-13, and began discussing the way officers lead suspects into police vehicles.
“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,” Trump said. “I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”
He continued: “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?”
Trump’s comments come at a significant moment in police-community relations, particularly in New York City. The NYPD is among many departments across the country that has attracted national scrutiny over its use of force against civilians, particularly African-Americans.
One of the most prominent instances was the death of Eric Garner in 2014, who died after being placed in a banned chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo. A grand jury in Staten Island later declined to indict Pantaleo.
O’Neill had declined to send NYPD officials to Trump’s Long Island speech, telling reporters that the department was too busy with promotion ceremonies.
The department has had a rocky relationship with the Trump administration, particularly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April called New York City “soft on crime,” prompting O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio to publicly rebuke the comment.
But the NYPD was not the only police department to speak out against Trump’s Friday remarks encouraging violence against suspects. The Suffolk County Police Department, which sent officers to the speech, tweeted afterwards that it maintains strict regulations around the handling of prisoners.
“Violations of those rules are treated extremely seriously,” the department wrote. “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.”
A spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department in Florida also drew widespread praise for his tweet condemning Trump’s remarks:
I’m a cop.
I do not agree with or condone @POTUS remarks today on police brutality.
Those that applauded and cheered should be ashamed.
— Ben Tobias (@GPDBenTobias) July 28, 2017