Donald Trump traveled to Long Island on Friday afternoon, speaking to a law-enforcement audience, touting his administration's stated efforts to combat gang violence. Trump noted, for example, "They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields They're animals."
Left unsaid is that crime on Long Island is actually at a 50-year low, making his rhetoric about "bloodstained killing fields" rather ridiculous.
But far more problematic was this portion of president's speech: "[W]hen 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 -- I said, please don't be too nice. 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, okay?"
The fact that many of the police officers in attendance laughed and applauded this rhetoric made matters worse.
But in a familiar pattern, a variety of police departments responded to Trump's comments by making clear they disagree with his endorsement of abuses. BuzzFeed noted:
President Donald Trump's apparent suggestion that police officers be "rough" with suspects in custody is facing sharp criticism from law enforcement agencies across the country, with police chiefs from California to Florida and New York condemning the president's remarks as an irresponsible encouragement of excessive force. [...]Within a few hours, the Suffolk County Police Department was already distancing itself from Trump's remarks, saying in a statement that the agency would "not tolerate roughing up prisoners." Other police departments were similarly quick to rebuke the quip, warning that the apparent urging of the use of force could erode already fragile relationships between law enforcement and the public and set back efforts to address problems of police brutality.
This was an encouraging reaction to a president whose approach to the rule of law is increasingly dangerous. But there's a larger takeaway for others to keep in mind:
Stop inviting Donald Trump to your events. Not to put too fine a point on this, but the president has shown he often doesn't know how to behave himself in public settings. The Boy Scouts, of all organizations, had to apologize for Trump's antics last week, which came on the heels of a controversial event in which the president tried to recruit active-duty troops into a White House lobbying campaign.
This keeps happening. Trump's remarks at the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service were obviously inappropriate, as was his speech to graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Now it's police departments nationwide scrambling to make clear they're not comfortable with the president's advice on police brutality.
If the White House's scheduling office calls you looking to set up a presidential visit, my advice is to hang up.