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Trump's Call for Suffolk Police to "Rough"-Up Latinos Was Not Funny Given Suffolk PD History

Faculty at Suffok Community College joined the protest against Trump's policies.

Donald Trump’s speech on Friday in Brentwood was wrong on just so many levels. But it was at its worst in the president’s direction to Suffolk cops to rough-up Latino suspects. This is what the president said:

And I can tell you, I saw some photos where Tom’s guys — rough guys. They’re rough. I don’t want to be — say it because they’ll say that’s not politically correct. You’re not allowed to have rough people doing this kind of work…

And when 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. (Laughter.) 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, okay? (Laughter and applause.)

Trump’s audience included many Suffolk police officers, members of a force undergoing many changes. The department is operating under a Justice Department Memorandum of Understanding because it engaged in so many flagrant violations of the civil rights of immigrants. During the period from 2002-2010 the Suffolk police simply refused to accept hate crime complaints from Latinos. The department’s last police chief is serving time in Federal prison for beating up a suspect. A detective sergeant is in jail for a scheme to extort money from Latino drivers that went on for years and that was allowed to continue even after the detective was reported to internal affairs. This is not a police force that needs to be encouraged to physically abuse people of color.

Unfortunately, the reactions of some officers to the president’s incitements are not reassuring. Many of them laughed and applauded his call to get “rough.” The new leadership of the department certainly did not appreciate the president’s words. The top brass Tweeted:

"The SCPD has strict rules & procedures relating to the handling of prisoners. Violations of those rules are treated extremely seriously."


"As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners."

Trump was also wrong on his facts about the impact of MS-13 on Suffolk communities. He said Friday in the most self-aggrandizing way possible:

One by one, we’re liberating our American towns. Can you believe that I’m saying that? I’m talking about liberating our towns. This is like I’d see in a movie: They’re liberating the town, like in the old Wild West, right? We’re liberating our towns. I never thought I’d be standing up here talking about liberating the towns on Long Island where I grew up, but that’s what you’re doing.

Long Island is not the Wild West. It has one of the lowest murder rates among all metropolitan areas in the United States. In fact, the murder rate is half that of Kansas! Suffolk County saw its crime rate drop in 2016, in spite of the nearly a dozen killings by MS-13.

Far from liberating villages like Brentwood and Central Islip, the mostly Latino residents of those villages report a new level of fear as ICE raids rise to unprecedented levels. Many residents lock themselves inside of their homes, more afraid of ICE than of MS-13. 

Pat Young is an attorney at CARECEN in Brentwood.



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