Lawyers Group Urges Area Law Enforcement Agencies to ‘Condemn’ President’s Advice

NLG Sacramento Criticizes Trumps Endorsement of Police Brutality as “Wrongheaded”

From Press Release – President Donald Trump’s wrongheaded remarks last Friday that endorsed police brutality will do nothing but encourage and empower such bad behavior by law enforcement in Sacramento and the rest of the country, charged the Sacramento chapter of the National Lawyers Guild today.

Trump, speaking to police in Long Island, said officers should not be “so nice” when protecting the heads of suspects who are put in police vehicles. “You can take the hand away, OK?” Trump suggested to officers who protect people by putting their hands on top of the suspects’ heads.

Trump also mistakenly declared that laws “totally protect the criminal, not the officers,” when it’s been proven that officers using excessive force in causing suspects’ deaths are virtually immune from prosecution, as has been highlighted over recent years involving the shooting deaths of people of color across the United States.

“Our legal observer teams have reported and documented use of excessive force, intimidation and overreaction by the Sacramento Police Department., Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol over recent years,” said Cres Vellucci, Sacramento NLG vice-president.

“Trump’s comments will do nothing but empower bad cops to do bad things and drive a deeper wedge between law enforcement here and the residents they are supposed to serve and protect. The comments also are a disservice to officers who do their job respectfully and sincerely every day in our community.

“The National Lawyers Guild in Sacramento implores law enforcement agencies and individual officers to condemn in the strongest terms, as some in law enforcement have done in New York, the statements last Friday by Trump that blatantly and wrongly endorse police brutality,” Vellucci said.


Donald Trump’s Talk to Police Officers Was Police-State Authoritarianism Distilled to Its Essence

By Jeffery Robinson

…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. (Laughter.) 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? (Laughter and applause.)

— Donald Trump speaking to police officers on Friday, July 28.

Freddie Gray ended up dead after the kind of treatment described above. And despite his death, last Friday Donald Trump made sure that police officers around America knew that if they use illegal, unnecessary force when arresting suspects, he will have their backs. He then doubled down by promising to repeal anti-police laws that don’t exist. This is the man who said he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue in New York, and it would not make any difference to his supporters. Apparently, he believes he can make up laws and then pretend to repeal them, and no one will notice.

Was he joking?

I don’t think so. Not when his remedy for a crime is a return to unconstitutional, ineffective policies like “stop and frisk” practices. Not when his attorney general proposes a return to policies that will produce the same racially biased results, with overly long sentences, that do nothing to make us safer. Trump’s delusional view of the world tells people whose communities have already suffered and paid a heavy price for unnecessary police violence that more of the same is coming. Why wait for the courts to mete out punishment when we can get a little payback on the street?

In Trump’s world when someone is arrested, officers should not hesitate to inflict some pain — and if that attitude makes encounters between police and the public more violent and dangerous, so be it. If more people — innocent or guilty — are injured or killed, so be it. If culture starts at the top, Trump’s promise to back officers who use unnecessary force is extremely dangerous. This is precisely the kind of rhetoric and viewpoint that led to the behavior of Chicago police officers who were indicted in June for conspiracy for “backing up” Officer Jason Van Dyke by lying about the killing of Laquan McDonald.

In showing support for the police, Trump quickly turned to fantasy and fiction. He went from telling police not to worry about the use of illegal force to making up laws that don’t exist and promising to get rid of them.

No such laws exist, and none were passed during the Obama administration. Police kill unarmed Americans with virtual immunity because the laws dealing with the police’s use of deadly force are some of the strongest, pro-law enforcement laws in the country. In 2015, for example, the Guardian reported that police in America killed 1,146 people. Fewer than 20 officers were prosecuted. Ask the families of Terence Crutcher and Philando Castile if the laws are stacked against police officers. And while both families were paid millions of dollars — seeming to suggest that the officers who killed Crutcher and Castile were “wrong” — the officers were protected.

The trip into fantasy land did not stop there. At the Friday event, Trump described a conversation with a Chicago police officer about how long it would take to “straighten out the problem” in Chicago. He said it ended like this.

This is typical Trump. He presents simplistic solutions to complicated problems with no thought or judgment. We can solve all crime problems by getting tough and arresting all the bad guys in a couple of days, slamming their heads into police cars as they are taken into custody. This sounds like the plot to a bad Western movie. It is certainly not sane criminal justice policy. Culture and acceptable behavior start at the top, and this kind of message from this administration is not new. Trump’s comments are completely consistent with the Justice Department’s approach to criminal justice — a return to failed policies of the past and support police behaving in excessive and unconstitutional ways.

Some may say that Trump was only talking about using violence against gang members — he referred to them as animals. Here are two problems with this analysis. First, the rule of law forbids the use of unnecessary violence, even against people who are guilty of a crime. Second, the police are not now and never have been and never will be perfect. So innocent “suspects” will get the same treatment. And we know which communities will pay the price for unnecessary police violence.

We have been down this road before, and opposition to Trump’s view is not about defending horrible behavior. If gang members are animals, what about gang affiliates? Or people suspected of being gang members or affiliates? Or innocent Black and Latino males who live in the same neighborhood as gang members. Once the unnecessary violence starts, it is impossible to restrict it to any one group of suspects.

And once unnecessary violence is acceptable, does it stop at banging someone’s head against a police car? How about doing it twice? Or a couple of blows from a nightstick? Or a couple thousand volts from a taser? Eric Garner got choked to death over selling loose cigarettes. The culture Trump promotes will lead to more Eric Garners, Philando Castiles, Sandra Blands.

Some police departments have repudiated Trump’s remarks — and every law enforcement agency in the country should. Still, what’s really scary is that some number of the officers present at the Friday event were laughing and applauding.



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14 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    I think that it is also important to remember that Donald Trump is also the same man that spent thousands of dollars in newspaper adds in New York proclaiming the pre trial guilt of the Central Park Five. As late as 2015, he was proclaiming their guilt despite a confession and DNA evidence supporting the guilt of another individual in the rape and beating who made clear he had acted alone. Trump, now 45 has never admitted to any error nor apologized for his actions in this case.

    The relevance to the current situation is that this same man, now in the most powerful political position in the country is once again calling for extrajudicial corporal punishment for individuals who have been convicted of …. nothing. I think that all police chiefs should join in a united proclamation and public repudiation of his recommended policy. This one should be easy. Just say “No”.

    1. David Greenwald

      Because local law enforcement are facing a crisis of trust in certain sectors and by remaining silent, it gives the appearance of support.  By cheering the president, the officers in Suffolk County became complicit.

  2. David Greenwald

    From Radley Balko:

    Trump’s tacit endorsement of police brutality was cheered by some of the beat cops at the event, and by law enforcement advocates who tend to see policing through the eyes of individual cops. That is unfortunate, but not terribly surprising. Cops have been incessantly told that there’s a “war” against them — that there are perpetual targets on their backs. Your average beat cop in a high-crime area undoubtedly sees a lot of bad stuff. Combine that with the psychological isolation in policing today, and you can see how police culture might develop a certain hostility toward criminal suspects, a reliance on profiling and stereotypes, an “us against them” mentality and a macabre sense of humor.
    But Trump’s comments were also denounced — explicitly or more indirectly — by nearly every association of police executives imaginable, as well as by police executives in several major cities, and by police executives in the county where he gave the talk. There’s a reason for that, too. Police executives may often disagree on the merits of one policy vs. another. But in the end, they are the ones who have to clean up the mess when individual cops lack impulse control — when they give in to hostility, bias and the temptation toward brutality. Chiefs and sheriffs are ultimately held responsible for the crime rate, which means they have the strongest interest in finding and implementing what works, not what feels right– or what satisfies our thirst for vengeance or retribution — but what actually works.

  3. Claire Benoit

    I’m sure I’m missing some parts of this but I still don’t see where Trump encouraged police brutality in his speech… it seemed like he was jusr encouraging officers to go hard on a very bad terrorist network… how is this any worse that hunting to kill any other known violent terrorist? Why is this speech being generalized to every criminal police may deal with? Law of attraction might be nonsense but if it’s not; could the hysteria that left leaning people sometimes contribute to these things influence the way their subjects also react?? I don’t think any officers in their right mind, jerk or not, would openly cheer and endorse police brutality…

    Its funny because a lot of countries some Americans admire for having superior legal systems aren’t especially gentle with criminals… I agree it seems police need better training and screening processes because many seem ill equipped. And bias needs to be something everyone in America is better educated about because our pc culture tends to deny a lot of realities.

    But the hand holding and being extra gentle to KNOWN violent criminals doesn’t happen much in a lot of countries some Americans admire… their legal system is more humane but an officer has little qualm or consequence for roughing up someone whose behaved badly and harmed others

    Maybe it is a good thing for members of this violent terrorist group to fear intolerance and brutality from law enforcement – right? Maybe?

    1. Alan Miller

      Right.  Maybe.

      Seemed to me the joke and the reason they laughed is how they have to treat people in a certain way that they know just did something horrific — in Trump’s “joke”, murder — and they’d really like to bap their heads into the car, but can’t.  It released some tension.

      This isn’t to forgive police brutality, which is when a certain percentage of officers go against these regs and actually act on their wish to take their anger out on someone who just did something heinous — and yes that happens and is dead wrong.  But wanting to do it — a very human desire — and acting on it — is the thin line, and makes all the difference.

      Don’t blame the officers for laughing.  I’ll bet most of those laughing were good cops who do — and will continue to — protect the head.

  4. Claire Benoit

    Alan I think you’re right about most the officers that laughed. Any officer who is taking trumps words as an endorsement to police brutality is among the officers who aren’t qualified for their jobs or need better training

    That said I don’t think they should watch the head at all on people who have just done “heinous” crimes. I’m sure the surviving loved ones of a murder victim would agree. The worry is that unqualified cop who might take it too far and interfere with formal justice… which sometimes goes too easy on horrific criminals imho while being absurd with probable innocents and non-violents

    In any case I think the presidents words are being blown out of proportion

  5. Alan Miller

    In any case I think the presidents words are being blown out of proportion

    Again

    What those with TDS don’t get is he is baiting them into reacting.  And when you are upset you are off-balance and not paying full attention.  It’s the oldest trick in the book.

  6. Claire Benoit

    YYes very true, I wish I didn’t know this firsthand 😜. You’re probably right as he does seem to be a show man. I don’t have much faith in any president because I believe their powers are mostly limited by others… but Trump seems to me – if it’s possible for any president – to be more accessible to the citizenry than others have been. IF the president does have the power to effect changes on his own (not sure I believe he does); I think those busy attacking him since he won the election may do better to try more civil communications. MAYBE they’d be surprised. If not; THEN fight. I feel like he’s just been attacked nonstop and not really given any support or opportunity to be better than expected…. but sort of off ttopic…

    police brutality is a really serious problem and hopefully since Donald seems to be focused on domestic problems more than others presidents; he’ll address this soon. One things for certain is that police brutality is not just a black issue. There may be some issues in the legal system when it’s a black life that’s been lost but the case of Kelly Thomas makes me believe otherwise (but it’s only one case… I guess). Worst I’ve ever seen and on par with the most tragic of blacks murdered by lousy cops. No justice dealt whatsoever…

    i don’t think it’s good to generalize but so far many of the cases I’ve learned of had Hispanic police officers (or wannabes), not white 🤔…. wondering if there’s a pattern there but I suppose that too is irrelevant (other than everyone wanting it to be a black-white issue).

  7. Claire Benoit

    He has not to date and this is very unfortunate because i do believe if he balanced some of his attentions toward issues like this; it would quickly win him a lot of favor and hush some posed against him prematurely…

    but if he does not, well …

    he proves them right… if they’re right – he doesn’t care… and Americas in trouble. But I think we’ve been in trouble for a while.. it’s just more in our face now.

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