WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump received applause on Friday when he endorsed police brutality while delivering a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, New York.
The president suggested that officers should hit suspects' heads on the doors of their police cars.
"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, and I said, 'Please don't be too nice,'" Trump said.
"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?'" he added.
His remarks received significant applause.
Trump also made the dubious claim that laws were "horrendously stacked" against police officers and said he wants to change those laws.
"For years and years, [laws have] been made to protect the criminal," Trump said. "Totally protect the criminal, not the officers. You do something wrong, you're in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We're changing those laws."
In his speech, Trump also said that police officers in many parts of the country couldn't do their jobs because they had a "pathetic mayor" or a mayor "who doesn't know what's going on." Those comments also received a lengthy applause.
"It's sad, it's sad. You look at what's happening, and it's sad," Trump said. "We're going to support you like you've never been supported before."
Trump also spoke about violence in Chicago, which was a consistent theme of his speeches throughout the campaign and is a topic he has continued to reference during his presidency. Trump recalled speaking to an "impressive" and "rough cookie" police officer from Chicago, and said the officer had told him he could straighten out the city's violence problem in a "couple of days" if he was given the authority.
Police cannot treat every community like an invading army, and encouraging violence by police is irresponsible and reprehensible. Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump may not be getting along these days, but the two are on the same page when it comes to policing. Sessions has had the Justice Department pull back from "pattern or practice" investigations that look into widespread constitutional abuses in police departments.
Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, said Trump's "inflammatory and hateful speech will only escalate tensions between police and communities" and that it will put both officers and civilians at risk.
"Police cannot treat every community like an invading army, and encouraging violence by police is irresponsible and reprehensible," he said.
Democratic National Committee deputy press secretary Brian Gabriel called Trump's comments "wholly unacceptable and completely beneath the office of the President." He said Trump's "irresponsible rhetoric does nothing to help repair the bonds of trust between police forces and the communities they serve," and that the president should never suggest that law enforcement officers violate constitutional rights.
Lecia Brooks of the Southern Poverty Law Center said it was "disgraceful" for anyone to advocate for abuse, and that the comments were even worse because they come from the president.
"For President Trump to endorse brutality against individuals at the hands of law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect our communities is absolutely reprehensible," she said.