Trump’s behavior warrants GOP rebuke | Editorial

Maybe President Trump was just joking Friday when he encouraged police to get rough with suspects. But given the troubled state of relations between police and the communities they serve, the president’s joke sent a terrible message.

It’s good to see the nation’s police chiefs aren’t laughing, no matter the initial cheers Trump received from his law-and-order audience in New York.

“As a department, we do not and will not tolerate ‘rough(ing)’ up prisoners,” said a statement from the Suffolk County Police Department, to which the president addressed his remarks.

A tweet from the Gainesville Police Department in Florida drew nearly 300,000 positive responses: “The @POTUS made remarks today that endorsed and condoned police brutality. GPD rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.”


Trump supporters say the president was “just joking.” It’s the same thing they said after he encouraged Russian hackers to go after Hillary Clinton, after he said President Obama founded ISIS and after he reportedly asked former FBI director James Comey to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in the investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election.

All joking aside, when does the president’s behavior warrant rebuke from his own party?

You’d think his humiliation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a recent blizzard of tweets would have moved at least some Republican House or Senate members to slap his wrist.

Sessions’ sin, in Trump’s eyes, was to recuse himself from the Russia probe, a recusal widely hailed as appropriate. But with the exception of Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republicans bit their collective tongues.


Then there was Trump’s appointment of a trash-talking wise guy as White House communications director. Anthony Scaramucci (aka The Mooch) quickly launched a campaign to dump Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Along the way, he gave an obscenity-laced interview to The New Yorker magazine.

Still, not so much as a raised eyebrow from GOP leaders.

(Fortunately, The Mooch was removed from his position Monday at the request of Gen. John Kelly, the president’s new chief of staff.)

And there was the president in New York on Friday, standing before a roomful of police officers, delivering a speech that ought — finally — to light a match under acquiescent, timid Republicans.


Departing from a prepared text extolling his administration’s efforts to curb immigrant crime, he joked that police ought to be rougher in treating suspects.

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and 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, OK?’”

Mangled syntax aside, the president seemed to be endorsing police brutality with a wink and a nod. “Go ahead,” he says, be rough. It reminded us of events during his campaign, when he called for the rough ejection of hecklers.


Police work is hard, dangerous and involves interactions with scumbags, no doubt. It was devastating to see those officers downed in Dallas last year. You can understand why officers’ emotions would run high during tense events.

But it is also true that not every person arrested is guilty of wrongdoing. And to maintain peace, trust is needed between police and citizens. And the vast majority of police officers pride themselves on their professionalism, which includes treating people with respect.

In America, we look to our president to be the ultimate role model, not the fomenter of unacceptable behavior.

What do we have instead? A man whose words too often resemble those of a street thug.


And what do we expect of the Republicans who chose Trump as their standard bearer? Certainly not silence. Certainly not tacit approval.

If any police officer brutally treats someone because of Trump’s rhetoric, the president and his enablers will bear the burden.

Republicans in the House and Senate owe the country an unambiguous expression of disappointment in the president’s outlandish behavior. Doing less is an abdication of duty.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Andrew Abramson, Elana Simms, Gary Stein and Editor-in-Chief Howard Saltz.