Trump Nudges Police to Treat Arrestees Roughly, Sending Chills Through Post-Freddie Gray Baltimore

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Official portrait of President Donald Trump, via the White House

The president’s latest head-scratching speech, in which he urged law enforcement to not be “too nice” to arrestees, reopened some wounds here in Baltimore.

If you didn’t see it over the weekend, watch the clip below, in which Donald Trump tells an audience of police officers in Long Island, “don’t be too nice” to “thugs being thrown into the back of the paddy wagon,” and to stop covering their heads when placing them in police cars.

Naturally, many Baltimore residents and local leaders reacted strongly. Such treatment by city police officers led to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in April 2015, when he was placed in the back of a police van unsecured and not seat-belted. Gray fractured three vertebrae and sever his spine, and died in the hospital a week later.

Some noted that the police officers behind Trump stood and applauded; others simply reviled of the entire scene.

The ACLU’s Jeffery Robinson issued a response referencing Gray and other black men who’ve died at the hands of police: “This country is weary of the type of policing that Trump espouses, having seen over and over again that it only makes it harder for police to investigate and solve crime. We know what happened to Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and too many others who lost their lives only because they were under suspicion. We must increase the trust between police and civilians, not decimate it.”

Baltimore is still dealing with the fallout of Gray’s death, though not in the same smoldering way as in the weeks of unrest that followed. Police are currently implementing reforms imposed by the U.S. Justice Department that aim to curb discriminatory and constitutional practices and change the overall culture of the police department here in Baltimore.

Despite attempts by the Trump Administration to weaken or delay the consent decree enforcing those changes, the court order took effect. What makes many doubtful, though – particularly with remarks like the ones above – is whether Trump’s Justice Department will take its implementation seriously. Last we heard, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had ordered a review of all active and pending consent decrees.

As Juana Summers wrote for CNN, Trump’s “comments are stunning in any circumstance but had special meaning to many in Baltimore.”

Ethan McLeod
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