Black police concerned by Trump quips on handling suspects

Posted: Updated:

By LISA MARIE PANE and KATE BRUMBACK
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) - The Trump administration's tough talk on crime and the treatment of suspects has left black police officers worried that efforts to repair the fraught relationship between police and minority communities could be derailed.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday addressed a major black law enforcement group, just days after President Donald Trump said police shouldn't be "nice" to suspects by shielding their heads as they are lowered, handcuffed, into police cars. The comment, now described by the White House as a joke, angered some cops who said it only served to dial back progress they'd made with the people they serve.

In addition, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration said Saturday in an email to employees that Trump's comments "condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement." DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg said he thought it important to emphasize the drug agency's operating principles, which include rule of law, respect and compassion and integrity.

Sessions did not directly address the president's comments in his remarks Tuesday, but said police officers need the support of the community as they do a dangerous job.

"You deserve the support and respect of every American, and I'm here today on behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice to say, 'Thank you.' I am proud to stand with you. The Department of Justice is proud to stand with you," Sessions said, drawing applause from the crowd. "We have your back. We are in this together."

Seattle Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, told reporters Sessions also spoke privately with the organization's leadership. Sessions didn't apologize for the president's comment and said he believes it was made in jest, but said he understands the effect such comments can have and underscored the Department of Justice's commitment to protecting everyone's civil rights, Tarrant said.

When asked if he believes Trump was joking, Tarrant said, "Whether intentional or unintentional, it was heard around the country by the folks, by the very communities that we're trying to build relationships with and I believe it had an impact."

Other conference attendees approached by The Associated Press declined to discuss Trump's comments or Sessions' address.

Black police officers talk of straddling two worlds: the communities where they live, and the police departments where they work. They take seriously their oath to uphold the law and to go after criminals, but they also worry about their own friends, relatives and neighbors who fear the police.

"We live in some of the same communities that are affected by this disparate treatment. We go to church in those neighborhoods. We go to the barbershops. Certain things people don't realize: It's really hard being black and being a police officer when these things happen," said Clarence E. Cox III, former chief of Clayton County Schools in Georgia and incoming president of NOBLE.

Sessions has questioned the federal civil rights investigations that marked the Obama administration's efforts to overhaul troubled police departments, often after high-profile deadly police encounters with black men inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations.

"We cannot let the politicians - and sometimes they do - run down the police in communities that are suffering only to see crimes spike in those communities," Sessions said. "In the very neighborhoods that need proactive, community-based policing the most, we don't need to be telling police not to do their job in those communities."

Sessions has said aggressive federal intervention in local law enforcement can malign entire agencies and make officers less effective on the streets, but he has promised to prosecute individual officers who break the law.

Sessions has been traveling the country touting his tough-on-crime agenda. He believes rising violence and the nation's opioid epidemic require a return to tougher tactics, vowing to make fighting ordinary street crime a top priority for a Justice Department.

Tarrant has also expressed concern about Sessions' pledge to dial back civil rights investigations. While some effective interim steps can help address bad departments, he said, "at the end of the day if you have systemic issues in any organization, the Department of Justice has an obligation to intervene."

Trump's remarks came last Friday before law enforcement officers in Suffolk County, New York, during a visit to highlight his administration's efforts to crack down on a street gang known as MS-13.

He spoke dismissively of the practice of shielding the heads of handcuffed suspects as they are placed in patrol cars.

"Don't be too nice," Trump said. "I said, 'You could take the hand away, OK,'" he said.

His remarks were later denounced by the Suffolk County Police Department, which issued a statement saying it has strict rules and procedures about how prisoners should be handled and "we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners."

___

Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • GOP leaders move to appease Rubio, finalize big tax bill

    GOP leaders move to appease Rubio, finalize big tax bill

    Friday, December 15 2017 7:00 AM EST2017-12-15 12:00:45 GMT
    Friday, December 15 2017 12:12 PM EST2017-12-15 17:12:40 GMT
    (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Kelly Craft) U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2017.(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Kelly Craft) U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2017.

    Congressional Republicans finalized their sweeping tax package Friday, expanding its child tax credit to placate Sen. Marco Rubio.

    Congressional Republicans finalized their sweeping tax package Friday, expanding its child tax credit to placate Sen. Marco Rubio.

  • Former ‘Apprentice’ star Omarosa denies White House firing

    Former ‘Apprentice’ star Omarosa denies White House firing

    Wednesday, December 13 2017 10:17 AM EST2017-12-13 15:17:17 GMT
    Thursday, December 14 2017 10:20 AM EST2017-12-14 15:20:28 GMT
    (Alex Wong/Getty Images) U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Director of Communications for the White House Public Liaison Office Omarosa Manigault during an event in the Oval Office of the White House Oct. 24, 2017, in Washington, D.C.(Alex Wong/Getty Images) U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Director of Communications for the White House Public Liaison Office Omarosa Manigault during an event in the Oval Office of the White House Oct. 24, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

    Former “Apprentice” star Omarosa says she resigned after a conversation with White House chief of staff John Kelly about some of her concerns.

    Former “Apprentice” star Omarosa says she resigned after a conversation with White House chief of staff John Kelly about some of her concerns.

  • Murphy names his pick to lead New Jersey's Treasury

    Murphy names his pick to lead New Jersey's Treasury

    Wednesday, December 13 2017 12:52 PM EST2017-12-13 17:52:56 GMT
    Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio was nominated to be New Jersey's next treasurer.Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio was nominated to be New Jersey's next treasurer.

    Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says he is nominating a Democratic assemblywoman to be New Jersey's next treasurer.

    Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says he is nominating a Democratic assemblywoman to be New Jersey's next treasurer.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."