A major black law enforcement group is expected to hear from Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Atlanta on Tuesday, days after President Trump encouraged police officers in New York to be "rough" with people they arrest.
The president made the remarks at a speech in Brentwood, New York, last Friday. Trump advised officers of the Suffolk County Police Department that they shouldn't be "too nice" when making arrests.
"I said please don't be too nice -- like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head ... I said you can take the hand away, OK?" Trump said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee defended the president, saying "I believe he was making a joke at the time."
The Blue Lives Matter Twitter account defended the president as well.
Joke or not, Trump's comments sparked criticism from some members of the law enforcement community.
“We live in some of the same communities that are affected by this disparate treatment. We go to church in those neighborhoods. We go to the barbershops. Certain things people don’t realize: It’s really hard being black and being a police officer when these things happen,” said Clarence E. Cox III, former chief of Clayton County Schools in Georgia and incoming president of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
“We are professionals. We are not thugs,” he added. “If there’s any deviation from that, there’s certainly cause for concern and to suggest that we treat people less than nice and it results in any kind of injury, we’re talking about a crime.”
The Gainesville Police Department in Florida wrote on Facebook that "The President of the United States has no business endorsing or condoning cops being rough with arrestees."
Trump sought to highlight his administration's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration at the speech. For the past six months, Sessions has traveled across the country to advocate for stricter immigration policies. Sessions has often cited the gang MS-13 when talking about the country's immigration polices.
“To take MS-13 off our streets, we need cooperation between law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels," Sessions said on July 21 at a Philadelphia meeting. "Unfortunately, this cooperation has been impeded by the policies of some cities and states."