Courts & Corrections

In wake of Trump speech, police reiterate use-of-force policies

Brandon del Pozo
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo. File photo by Morgan True/VTDigger

Two of Vermont’s largest law enforcement agencies joined a chorus of police forces across the country reacting to a speech President Donald Trump delivered Friday.

Speaking to an audience of law enforcement officials on Long Island, Trump seemed to endorse rough treatment of suspects.

“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,” Trump said.

“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,” Trump said. “I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”

Trump also said some policies make it too hard for police to do their jobs.

“And I have to tell you, you know, the laws are so horrendously stacked against us, because for years and years they’ve been made to protect the criminal. Totally made to protect the criminal, not the officers,” he said. “If you do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you.”

The speech prompted an outcry from rights advocates across the country, and many law enforcement officials, including some in Vermont, spoke out about the use of force by police.

Two days after Trump’s comments, Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety Tom Anderson and Vermont State Police Col. Matthew Birmingham issued a statement on the use of force by law enforcement.

“Under no circumstance is a police officer permitted to use force that is not reasonable or legally permissible,” the officials said.

They said that all police officers in the state, including state troopers, go through “extensive training” on use of force to “ensure the prudent, reasonable and careful use of force under the circumstances.”

State police members also go through regular use-of-force training and face “significant” penalties if they use force improperly, Birmingham and Anderson said.

“Statements by any public official condoning or encouraging the unreasonable use of force or the mistreatment of individuals in police custody are inappropriate and antithetical to professional policing and the mission of the Department of Public Safety,” the statement concluded.

The Burlington Police Department posted a statement Saturday on Twitter with a link to a story about the president’s speech.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo condemned the president’s comments.

“The police are now in the position of having to protect criminal suspects from people like the president,” he wrote on Facebook.

“The president can’t talk to the nation like he’s a cop venting frustrations in a locker room. And people worry that when they’re not around we joke about tuning them up. The president himself joking about it in public and cops applauding and laughing isn’t good leadership or helpful to cops,” del Pozo wrote.

Most of the feedback del Pozo got was complimentary. One writer said Trump was joking and accused del Pozo of “jump(ing) on the bandwagon in utopia,” referring to Burlington’s left political leanings.

Del Pozo shot back to one critic: “If our president supported cops and knew anything about leading them he’d have kept his mouth shut rather than play to their frustrations. He was patronizing us considering he’ll never be in our shoes.”

Another critic told del Pozo to stop worrying about Trump and “concentrate on training his stormtroopers to not assassinate mentally-ill 76-year-olds who are unarmed and bottled up in their apartment,” referring to the fatal shooting of Ralph “Phil” Grenon, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Edward Letourneau

    Since the catch and release policy works so well, why do we bother picking them up at all.

  • robert bristow-johnson

    Thank you, Chief.

  • As I recall, all of our office holders including POTUS take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. My sense is that the person presently occupying the White House is not at all familiar with that fundamental charter of our democracy. After all, punishment before trial is the antithesis of our system where all are deemed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law, not by street justice. So much for the presumption of innocence.
    I commend our law enforcement in VT and elsewhere who are righteously decrying the facistic leanings of # 45.

  • Homer sulham

    “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,” Trump said. “I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”
    Anyone who can equate this statement to “police brutality” has political tunnel vision.

    • Mike McNally

      It equates to an incredibly stupid statement by a very powerful person at a time when police violence is a very real issue, and the cops cheered for this. Innocent until proven guilty is still the law of the land, but trump fans seem to think that concept is “too PC”.

      Do you support roughing up people who might be acquitted in court? If you were arrested would you want to be thrown around like nothing becuase you may have committed a crime? I wouldn’t.

      • Rich Lachapelle

        Violence AGAINST police is also a very real issue. Who is advocating for them? When some leftist rabblerouser is whipping people into a frenzy and encouraging that they attack law enforcement officers do the leftist political leaders of Vermont come out of the woodwork to denounce it? Law and order applies to police as well as citizens. When someone in the blue uniform dies in the line of duty it is a tragedy. When someone hell bent on a life of violent crime dies doing their thing, it is an act of Darwinism and poetic justice. If the police want to feel appreciated, they should all go on strike for a day.

        • Mike McNally

          Violence against police has nothing to do with it. Nothing justifies unprovoked violence against those who have simply been charged with a crime. You are innocent until proven guilty. Protecting the innocent until they are proven guilty is more important than getting one over on leftists. Trump rejects that people who are under arrest deserve respect so he says that cops should be “mean” (rather than nice) to them, and throw them in cop cars roughly, that’s an abuse of a cops power and saying it is an abuse of the president’s power.

  • Gary Murdock

    Wow…Trump shows support for a group of cops battling gang violence in N.Y in his typically non PC way and everyone has a conniption fit. He simply joked that they don’t have to be so nice, and they don’t need to put their hand on their head when putting them in the car, and the PC police come out in force. The VSP turned it into an accusation that Trump is condoning the unreasonable use of force. Vermonts new authority on policing, Chief del Pozo, turned it into a need to protect criminals from people like the president. The same Chief, by the way, that determined storming and shooting an elderly and mentally unstable person in their bathroom was justified, and never considered containment and waiting indefinitely a viable option. Lighten up people, hating the president is no excuse for lashing out in a PC induced frenzy at everything he says. Consumed with hatred is a terrible way to spend the next 4 years.

    • Mike McNally

      The President should not be treating police violence as a joke and neither should you. This isn’t PC it’s called being a decent human, when you have such a powerful office, jokes about violence are not jokes.

      “Lighten up” about cops hurting people and the president making jokes about that, what is wrong with you?

  • John Briggs

    Good to hear this from Vermont cops.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    Trump’s detractors take his random, and admittedly irresponsible comments way too literally. I can understand why people who embrace Vermont’s criminal-coddling leftist philosophies would take such offense to this one. Vermont’s police spokespersons naturally have to release their statements of how aghast they are for reasons of political correctness in order to distance themselves from the fray. The caption in the photo with this article is a good case in point: “Trump endorses police brutality”. That analysis of the President’s statement by the Huffington Post is a matter of opinion, not factual reporting.

    It is somewhat ironic to hear the Burlington Police Chief’s defensive response to a statement when looking back at some of the actions of those under his command over the last couple of years taking the lives of 2 people in mental crises and one drug trafficker who was killed in a hail of assault weapon fire in his living room because the police made the decision to forcibly raid his dwelling instead of warn him with a simple phone call. Those deadly tactics were a bit more rash than failing to protect someones head from contacting the doorway of a squad car.

    • Mike McNally

      How is it politically correct to say that the president shouldn’t encourage cops to be rougher with suspects?

      Even as a joke, that is an atrocious use of his station and people need to catch on that Trump throwing words around in the foolish manner he always has is dangerous, especially now that he has the highest office in the land.

    • bill_christian

      A decent person does not make harmful jokes. A decent person does not do things to sew hatred and violence. Once hatred and violence get a start, they can turn into an inferno of eye-for-an-eye, a forest fire consuming hundreds of years of growth in a day, unstoppable. A decent person weights their words just like they weigh their physical actions. Words count. You can’t unsay a word. I wonder what “jokes” he’s said to his various wives. I know the things he said to his fellow republican presidential candidates, things no decent person would say, and they how a week later Marco Rubio is “a fine guy, I really like this guy”. I am certain that he is mentally unstable.

  • Judith McLaughlin

    Sometimes I think people get too wrapped around the fact that President Trump doesn’t have a “politically correct language” thought in his mind. One often has to interpret what he’s really saying.

    IMHO he wasn’t sending a message that our police agencies should become more violent…he was saying that we don’t need to respect the law-breakers. For example: A man is hauled away right after murdering his wife. Of course, we all agree that he has all the constitutional rights of “innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his peers.” It doesn’t mean however, that we owe him the right to get his Bachelor’s Degree while in prison. “Stop being too nice.” Get it?

    We Americans are some of the most violent people on the planet. Murder, mayhem and chaos is ingrained into our entertainment systems. We act as though those who commit the most horrendous of crimes just need to be hugged, or read a poem…and they’ll suddenly change into front row sitting church goers.

    It’s not Trump that needs to change – it’s our own culture.

    • Mike McNally

      Yea your right, we can’t believe anything Trump says. He always means exactly the opposite of what he says!

      Lets ignore the fact that an arrested person often has not been proven to have done anything wrong. And should be treated as innocent, that’s is why we shield their head as they go in a car, and generally try not to be violent towards them. Apparently that’s PC nonsense though.

      • Steve Baker

        Did you get the $2,500 reduction in your insurance premium?

        • Mike McNally

          Did you get anything Trump has promised? Has the swamp been drained or is it not just a whole new swamp of trump’s billionaire wall street buddies? Has the wall been built? Is Mexico Paying? Is his infrastructure plan at all on the horizon? Does he have a solution to improve healthcare in this country or is he just going to tear down the ACA and tell the people on it to take a walk?

          Healthcare is complicated, as your POTUS miraculously discovered long after starting in the office. The ACA helped millions by giving them insurance for the first time, nothing POTUS has done has helped anyone but himself, and he hasn’t done much. He’s still whining about Hillary in every other speech despite having won the presidency. Ridiculous.

        • bill_christian

          Ha ha ha. and Donny fanboys and fangirls will never realize they were completely lied to about health care. They will never figure it out, ever. Sad.

    • bill_christian

      A person arrested by police is a SUSPECT, not a law-breaker. One of the most important pillars of our nation is “innocent until proven guilty”. Police should never use more force than necessary dealing with a SUSPECT. A percentage of those people are INNOCENT. Do not ever forget that or you will no longer be a legitimate American.

  • Tim Vincent

    More and more, police chiefs are becoming (willingly or not) political actors.
    Chief Del Pozo is no dummy.
    He knew what he was getting into when he took the job in far-left PC Burlington.
    I’d be surprised if he DIDN’T make such a statement.

  • Mike McNally

    He’s saying you can hit people’s heads as you put them in cop cars, he’s saying that they’re being too soft, too nice and should be less nice AKA mean.

    It’s quite simple.

  • David Bell

    The way Trump says police officers should rough people up you mean?

    He says things, his supporters immediately say he doesn’t mean then; he then repeats what he said insisting he did mean it. And the process repeats.

  • Mike McNally

    He did this on video, it actually happened, and I’m personally very disturbed/outraged by it. Thank goodness we have news media like VTD to report on these things!

    Just because you don’t like it does not make it fake, if you have strong evidence that the video was made-up and people upset with POTUS are all being bought off, by all means, lets move along. But I really don’t think that evidence exists.

  • Steve Baker

    Who actually said that Dave?

  • bill_christian

    No legitimate news source has confirmed this. We don’t know if Obama said this or exactly what he was saying. Also, while drone strikes are very controversial, each was carefully chosen and planned to kill an extremely harmful person while doing as little other harm as was possible, as must always be done in a war. I find it hard to believe drone strikes are effective because each may create more enemies than it eliminates. But I am not an expert. And neither are you, very obviously.

  • Homer sulham

    Smashing? I don’t recall that word being used. That certainly isn’t what Trump said or meant, I believe