President Trump shared a telling perspective about where he stands with regard to policing tactics during his appearance before a group of law enforcement officials in the Empire State where he was expected to lend his support to local police in their efforts to take down members of MS-13 – a violent gang accused of engineering a slew of unsolved murders on Long Island.
But along the way, Trump decided to elicit laughter from the audience, heavily comprised of police officers from New York State and beyond, urging them to be less “nice” when arresting immigrant criminal suspects. The officers chuckled in support as one would expect, but since then it has become increasingly apparent that not all of America’s police departments agree with Trump’s suggestion. Still, we must add that just one day after his speech, tweets of support numbered more than 240,000.
That said, online criticism began almost immediately as the president’s remarks were quickly denounced by police organizations from Los Angeles to Gainesville, Florida. Comments opposing Trump’s admonition included many like the following from a Florida-based police department spokesperson who said those who “cheered should be ashamed.”
Some organizations, like the police support group Blue Lives Matter, have taken to Trump’s favorite means of communication, Twitter, saying that his words were clearly intended as a joke. Even the president himself, after several days of silence from the White House, has said he was just “joking.”
Joking? We fail to see the punchline. There’s nothing funny about advocating for an increase in excessive force, allowing for roughing up prisoners or putting suspects in chokeholds which we’ve already seen can and often do result in the serious injury or death of the suspect. Nothing funny.
Further, in an age where police-community relations have eroded to unprecedented lows, it’s almost surreal to believe that the president of the United States could believe that levity would be the most appropriate road to take when discussing the tactics he supports when police attempt to detain suspects believed to have committed a crime.
For Blacks, police brutality and the use of excessive force have been as American as apple pie for well over 300 years and can be verified as fact, not “fake news,” when reviewing our country’s sometimes sordid history. Now, with Trump’s promise to “build the wall” back on the table and the often-unmerited prejudice lodged against both Latino immigrants and Muslims, we wonder if our own president has opened the door for an increase in “legalized forms of vigilantism” initiated by those who take an oath to “protect and serve.”
When death is one of the options, there’s nothing that makes us laugh.
What about you?