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.
It is our sworn duty to protect people from unjustified violence and harm, no matter who disagrees.https://t.co/ouDLXH6JfY
— Burlington Police (@OneNorthAvenue) July 29, 2017
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.