Chiefs React to Speech

Trump’s violent exhortation was not welcomed

In a speech in Brentwood on Friday, President Donald Trump told Suffolk County law enforcement officials that “we love our police, we love our sheriffs, and we love our ICE officers.”

“We are going to destroy MS-13,” he said, speaking of the brutal gang that has terrorized several UpIsland neighborhoods as far east as Riverhead. His remarks were interrupted several times by applause and cheering.

The police chiefs of East Hampton Town and Village had mixed reactions to the speech this week. “A sitting president addressing local law enforcement and the show of support for the county’s struggle with gang violence was very much appreciated,” Chief Michael D. Sarlo of the town force said yesterday. But he was less appreciative of Mr. Trump’s advising his police audience, “Please don’t be too nice . . . like, when you guys are putting somebody in the car and you are protecting their head, the way you put the hand over, like, don’t hit their head — and they’ve just killed somebody? I say, you can take the hand away.” This was followed by a burst of applause.

Chief Sarlo called it “an unfortunate” statement. “We obviously do not tolerate mistreatment of suspects, and take the fair and equitable treatment of all those we come in contact with seriously,” he said this week. “We did not take his comment as an endorsement of police brutality, and understand how citizens could be concerned about how that would be perceived by law enforcement leaders.”

He cited guidelines of the International Association of Chiefs of Police: “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.”

Acting Chief Michael Tracey of the East Hampton Village police, appearing before the village board on Monday, took time out from a discussion of parking regulations to note that “several of our local agencies,” including the Suffolk County and New York City Police Departments, had acted after Mr. Trump’s speech to clarify their policies on “prisoners and persons in custody.”

In the village, he said, “we have very strict guidelines in place, as do our fellow law-enforcement agencies. We don’t deviate from those policies, regardless of the type of crime. We don’t deviate, regardless of the identification of a suspect. We maintain a steady course with those rules and procedures, as do our neighboring agencies.”

Also in his speech, the president called for a major increase in resources and manpower to battle gangs and ramp up deportations. “Right now we have less than 6,000 ICE officers,” he said. “This is not enough to protect a nation of more than 320 million people. We need more resources. It’s essential that Congress fund another 10,000 ICE officers so we can eliminate MS-13 and root out criminals.”

At one point, apparently off the cuff, Mr. Trump said his administration was forcing other nations to accept criminals deported by the United States to their native lands. He then turned to Thomas D. Homan, acting head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, and asked whether there were still countries refusing to accept such deportees. Told there were some, he said, “Give me the names of the problems. We will take of it, I’m telling you.”