The Nation’s premier association of Black police executives – which convened in Atlanta last week – has responded to rogue statements made by President Donald Trump encouraging police officers to “please, don’t be too nice” to suspects being arrested for violent crimes.
Speaking to law enforcement officials in Ronkonkoma, N. Y. about the brutal MS-13 gang, Trump said, “And 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 – 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?”
Many of the officers laughed and even applauded the comments. The White House has since attempted to downplay the statements claiming the President was only joking. But, his words caused chills for those recalling the string of police brutality cases across the nation that resulted in the deaths of Black people. Those cases include that of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray who died after a police paddy wagon ride that somehow led to a broken neck two years ago. The Freddie Gray case resulted in an uprising that included fires, millions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of arrests.
In a statement, Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), reasserted principles to which all police officers must adhere when making an arrest – regardless of the charge.
“As NOBLE convenes its 41st Annual Training Conference in Atlanta, it reminds the nation of one of the bedrock’s of our democracy, equal protection under the law. All law enforcement officers play a critical role in determining the appropriate levels of use of force as they police communities across this nation,” Tarrant said. “As NOBLE continues its efforts to build one community (law enforcement is part of the community), we must always be vigilant in ensuring that the human rights of those in custody and/or suspected of crimes are protected.”
Trump’s statement was made during a season in which the clearly unwarranted killings of Black people by police have wreaked havoc across the nation. Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo., Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minn., Eric Garner of Staton Island, N.Y., and Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio are just a few of the dead who have become iconic cases for police brutality in America.
Tarrant, elected NOBLE president last year, is well acquainted with the historic conflicts between police and the Black community. Upon his rise to the NOBLE presidency last year, he cited the need for trust and conversation between police and community.
Tarrant currently serves as assistant chief of the Special Operations Bureau for the Seattle Police Department. He spent 34 years with the Tucson, Ariz., Police Department, where he worked in patrol, the K-9 unit, SWAT team, bomb squad, aviation and internal affairs.
For 41 years, NOBLE has described itself as “the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.” The organization represents “3,000 members internationally, who are primarily African-American chief executive officers of law enforcement agencies at federal, state, county and municipal levels, other law enforcement administrators, and criminal justice practitioners.”
In addition to NOBLE, a string of police bureaus and organizations across the nation publicly distanced themselves from the statements by Trump.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) also issued a statement saying, “Managing use of force is one of the most difficult challenges faced by law enforcement agencies. The ability of law enforcement officers to enforce the law, protect the public, and guard their own safety, the safety of innocent bystanders, and even those suspected or apprehended for criminal activity is very challenging. For these reasons, law enforcement agencies develop policies and procedures, as well as conduct extensive training, to ensure that any use of force is carefully applied and objectively reasonable considering the situation confronted by the officers.
The IACP concluded, “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.”