Attorney General Jeff Sessions says respect for law enforcement is the key to safer communities.
He delivered that message to the annual gathering of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives in Atlanta Tuesday.
“We can all agree that you’re safer on your rounds when everyone respects law enforcement. The communities you serve are safer if people respect law enforcement,” Sessions said.
Sessions acknowledged police have a long way to go to gain that trust. He pointed to a recent Gallup poll that showed just 30 percent of black respondents had confidence in law enforcement.
However, he didn’t mention recent remarks by President Trump that law enforcement officers need not be “too nice” with the suspects they arrest.
“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, OK?” Trump said at a gathering of law enforcement officers in New York on July 28.
Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA) spoke after Sessions and wasn’t afraid to broach the subject.
“That just underscores how serious our condition is in these United States at this time in the year of Our Lord 2017,” he said.
Still, Bishop urged officer to work with Sessions and to give the Department of Justice “the information they need to have in order to truly make our communities safe and free from crime.”
Tina Daniels, a Clayton County police officer, wanted Sessions to address Trump’s remarks from last week.
“I just did not agree at all with those comments. All it does is continue to deepen the divide and that's not what we want,” Daniels said.
But other attendees, like Los Angeles Police Captain Peter Wittingham, felt more comfortable with the president’s comments.
He said that some reports in the media took the words out of context, and that Trump was commenting on how challenging it can be for law enforcement officers to remain ethical when dealing with criminals.
“We just had a discussion yesterday about transnational crime and human trafficking and individuals who are exploiting children," he said. "When we arrest those individuals and still have to shield their heads when you put them in the car, you can understand how emotionally conflicted police officers can be."