President Trump visited Long Island on Friday to speak to a crowd of police officers about the fight against MS-13. The area has been a haven for the gang in recent years; earlier this month police arrested 15 members of the gang on murder charges and police estimate that 400 MS-13 members are operating in Suffolk County.
In Trump’s speech, he railed against the gang, which has roots in Latin American immigrants. The president issued a stern warning, declaring, “we will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you and we will deport you.”
The attention grabbing moment of the speech occurred when Trump referenced “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon” and urged officers “please don’t be too nice.”
The remark drew applause from the police officers but some condemned the statement as encouraging police brutality. New York Times scribbler Maggie Haberman, who is widely regarded as the definitive voice on the mind of Trump, tweeted that the president was “radiating joy at being back in New York,” before writing “POTUS just encouraged cops to be rough putting criminals into “the paddy wagon.”
Olivia Nuzzi, who reports on the White House and Trump for New York Magazine and has interviewed the president in Trump Tower, wrote “the president just advocated for police brutality.”
The International Association of Chiefs of Police released a statement on “police use of force” but strayed away from mentioning Trump. In that statement, the organization wrote “law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect or defendant with dignity and respect. This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy.”
In a statement on the speech, Zeke Johnson, a senior director at Amnesty International said, “this inflammatory and hateful speech will only escalate tensions between police and communities and put both law enforcement and civilians at risk.” He also hit back on Trump’s rhetoric about immigration, saying “far from being the root of violence, many people seeking asylum at the southern border are trying to escape the very same gangs that President Trump spoke of today.”
The Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to a request for comment.