Donald Trump. Still hasn’t repudiated comments endorsing police brutality. Photo Gage Skidmore-Flickr
People are still discussing Donald Trump’s lunatic advice calling for police brutality — and rightly we should be talking.
Trump spoke to Suffolk County Police officers, in Brentwood, Long Island. His odious oratory was received with cheers and applause by some of the rank-and-file officers, from the Suffolk County Police Department, to whom he was speaking. Many of them were captured on video cheering the lunatic-president promoting police violence. If some had even shaken their head in disapproval or given him a thumbs down, if they did not want to boo, they would have deserved promotion. As it is, those who were captured cheering should be fired. They have admitted in advance that they welcome an opportunity to commit police brutality–which is a crime.
This dangerously duplicitous double-standard in thinking and approach, which seeks to excuse police abuse, undermines the so-called “rule of law” principle we hear so much about; it magnifies the hypocrisy of Republicans like Donald Trump.
In his address, Trump ridiculed how sometimes police protect the heads of people being arrested, saying: “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, O.K.?”
He also made it clear police should not be “so nice.” He brazenly promoted to police that they should handle people “rough.” Some have rightly become incensed by this comment, since it reminds many of what happened to Freddie Gray, who had his spine severed, at some point, during the time he was being manhandled by police officers of the Baltimore Police Department.
Even some in law enforcement realize they could not openly endorse Trump’s comments—although they no doubt endorse it in principle.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner James O’Neill said: “To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and send the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”
One of the strongest responses was put out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Director Chuck Rosenberg, in an e-mail message to agents. Rosenberg was a holdover from the Obama administration. “The President, in remarks delivered yesterday in New York, condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement,” Rosenberg said. “In writing to you, I seek to advance no political, partisan, or personal agenda. Nor do I believe that a Special Agent or Task Force Officer of the DEA would mistreat a defendant. I know that you would not…I write to offer strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals adhere. I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong…We must earn and keep the public trust and continue to hold ourselves to the very highest standards.”
The Suffolk County Police put out a statement saying: “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate ‘rough(ing)’ up prisoners.”
Trump, a despicable human being, delivered his despicable speech at Suffolk Community College—to Suffolk County Police officers. Despite the statement put out by the Suffolk County Police, it was clear that many were glad to hear his comments based on their cheers and applause, including the Suffolk County Sheriff.
This past Monday Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said of Trump’s speech “When he was done, I was fired up. It just feels good to have the president of the United States telling law enforcement how proud of them he is and how much he appreciates the work they do.” DeMarco defended Trump’s statement as an “attempt at cop humor.” Sheriff DeMarco also said: “I think he was trying to be funny and he was playing to a law enforcement crowd. I am a 100 percent sure that the president is not advocating for abusing prisoners.”
This notion is a 100 percent bull.
The comments of Sheriff DeMarco, which is at such variance with the outward statement released by Suffolk Police, illustrates the callous disregard police have for the lives of non-white people—especially, Black people. How insensitive can these folks be when a police commander thinks any matter related to police brutality is a joke? Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and many other aren’t laughing. They’re all dead. Trump’s rhetoric was beyond reprehensible.
Why the deafening silence by supposedly respectable Republicans, who like to talk about the “rule of law?” The White House, like Sheriff DeMarco, now claim this was all just a joke. They tell us this mad president was not serious. So if he didn’t mean it why doesn’t he apologize and explicitly declare police should not abuse suspects or anyone for that matter?
Racists, during the Jim Crow Era, often made degrading dehumanizing jokes about Black people—before going out to lynch Blacks. There are photographs in history books showing festivity and laughter by participants during lynchings.
Sheriff DeMarco’s contention that this was just an “attempt at cop humor” should chill us all to the bone. Would DeMarco, and the White House, think it was funny if Black activists, like those in Black Lives Matter, made inconsiderate jokes about “rouging” cops? In fact, Governor Chris Christie once made false slanderous claims against Black Lives Matter, suggesting that they promoted cop killing. That was when he still believed he had a chance to become president.
Trump gave police the signal to use violence while making arrests. That’s why Eric Garner and Freddie Gray are dead. When have we ever heard this bigoted buffoon, who is now scandalizing the White House, say anything of consequence about police abuse and murder of unarmed people? Trump, Republicans, and even most Democrats, seem incapable of bringing themselves to denounce even clear-cut cases of police murder like: the killing of Walter Scott by Officer Michael Slager; the killing of Laquan McDonald, by Officer Jason Van Dyke; or the killing of Alton Sterling by Officer Blane Salamoni and Officer Howie Lake.
Killings like these don’t touch any part of this president’s being.
While Trump ignores the realities of police brutality, he, along with police and their apologists, like Sheriff DeMarco and attorney general Jeff Sessions pretend police are the ones who are being mistreated. This absurd argument is repeated over and over with no factual basis. Violence against police, especially from Black people, is infinitesimal when compared to the regular racist abuse Blacks face at the hands of police.
The violence and murder Black Americans face from police has been ongoing for centuries—and, too often, police atrocities can hardly be separated from the worst outrages done by Klan “nightriders.” This isn’t a hyperbolic statement. History tells us police have always abused Black people from their very beginnings as Slave Patrollers. Indeed, abusing Black people is a sadistic “rites of passage” ritual for some whites who came from economically deprived and illiterate backgrounds.
Since Sessions ascended to the position of attorney general, we’ve heard a lot of talk about how bad the “morale” of police officers is.
Isn’t the morale bad because the criminal culture of many cops has been exposed over the last few years by irrefutable videotape evidence?
The real message of Sessions, Republicans, and other police apologists here is basically two-fold: that to hold cops accountable for their criminal conduct against African-Americans is anathema to cop culture; and, that brutalizing and murdering Blacks is a necessary component to maintaining good police “morale.”
Let’s remember this too: these are the same supposedly morally upright people who like to lecture us on the “rule of law.” Somehow, the “rule of law” is never mentioned when police brutalize and kill Black people. Trump and Sheriff DeMarco think police brutality is a joking matter.
Black America isn’t laughing.