(CN) — President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to endorse rough treatment of people in police custody, speaking dismissively of arresting officers who protect the heads of handcuffed suspects while putting them in patrol cars.
“You see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice,” the president said before an audience on Long Island, New York.
“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,” he said, soaking in the applause of the many law enforcement members in the audience.
“You can take the hand away, okay?” he said.
Trump traveled to New York to highlight administration efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and violent crime, and in particular the street gang known as MS-13, which has ties to El Salvador and has terrorized communities on Long Island and in other parts of the country.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a similar visit to Long Island in April, but he was notably absent from Friday’s event. He’s actually visiting El Salvador where he is trying to increase international cooperation against the gang.
Sessions has instructed the Justice Department’s law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of MS-13 members, as directed by an executive order Trump signed in February.
Trump said the administration is removing these gang members from the United States “but we’d like to get them out a lot faster.'”