Monday afternoon President Donald Trump addressed the members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police at their annual conference in Orlando, FL. I was sitting in the overflow room watching the speech on video and here are my impressions.
Trump is not a skilled orator. His speeches are partly prepared statement, partly off-the-cuff remarks, and partly campaign rallies.
One thing you can definitely say about the president is that he is not afraid to spark controversy. During his Orlando remarks he suggested stop and frisk as the solution to the murders that have plagued Chicago for much of this decade. He said the police tactic helped transform New York City into "the safest major city in the country." A federal judge ruled that the tactic was discriminatory as practiced by the NYPD in 2013, and Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the city's appeal of that decision in 2014. Still, Trump believes it works. The audience at IACP did not display support or rejection of the idea. The national press led many of its reports from the speech with Trump's support for stop and frisk.
Trump also said his administration opposed the new consent decree reforming the Chicago PD, and he blamed earlier reform agreements between the ACLU and the city for handcuffing the police and allowing the violent crime rate to soar. Trump said he wants the crime problem in Chicago straightened out, and added if the city will accept our help and let its officers do their jobs, "We'll straighten it out fast." On Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed opposition to the Chicago PD's consent decree. He wrote in part: “Chicago’s agreement with the ACLU in late 2015 dramatically undercut proactive policing in the city … with homicides increasing more than 57% the very next year. Now the city’s leaders are seeking to enter into another agreement. It is imperative that the city not repeat the mistakes of the past — the safety of Chicago depends on it. Accordingly, at the end of this week, the Justice Department will file a statement of interest opposing the proposed consent decree. It is critical that Chicago get this right.”
Trump praised new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As he started to mention the judge, the audience cheered, one of its loudest responses during the 35-minute address, and it cheered again as he said the judge's name. Trump noted the audience's approval. "I told Brett it would be a piece of cake to get him confirmed," Trump joked. He praised the judge, slammed the Democrats who opposed the nomination, and thanked the Republican senators who helped get it approved. "It was very unfair what happened to him," Trump said.
The president also discussed crime statistics nationwide. He said there "was a historic surge in violent crime before I took office. We are now turning that tide and taking back our streets." Surely, his opponents will dispute Trump's statistics. But they might actually agree with him on some of his ideas about reducing America's crime problem. He said his administration is working with Congress on a comprehensive prison reform bill, and he said the best way to prevent people, especially non-violent offenders, from reoffending was to give them the opportunity to work and earn a living. Accordingly, he touted the nation's drop in unemployment as a crime-fighting tool. It was an interesting show of mercy toward criminals from a man who is often painted as cruel.
That mercy does not extend to cop killers. As he does often when he speaks to law enforcement officers, Trump called for capital punishment for criminals who murder officers. Calling the murder of an officer "a wound inflicted on our entire nation," the president said he wanted convicted cop killers to be executed as rapidly as possible.
Officer safety was the focus of a significant portion of the president's IACP speech. He said that every nine minutes in America an officer is assaulted. Then he talked about the incident in Florence, SC, that killed one law enforcement officer and wounded six others. He said: "We pray for the loved ones of Officer Terrence Carraway (who was killed in the incident) and for the six wounded officers and their loved ones."
Trump talked about measures his administration has taken to give officers the tools to enhance their safety and public safety. He specifically said he was a big supporter of the Pentagon's 1033 Program, which helps law enforcement agencies acquire military surplus. (An armored vehicle, reportedly acquired from the military, helped save the six wounded officers during the Florence incident.) Trump slammed the Obama administration for restricting law enforcement's acquisition of military surplus equipment based on concerns of militarization. He called that "a very strange reason" for keeping life-saving equipment away from officers. "People are shooting at you and some people are worried about how you look," Trump said. He added that military surplus was used to rescue 9,000 people during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey last year.
Police safety was a major focus of Trump's address, as was public safety. He talked about the opioid crisis. And he said he was authorizing an additional $42.4 million in funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program to be spent of grants for programs to address the opioid issue. He also said he wanted increased sentences for people convicted of drug trafficking, and he praised the role of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Border Patrol in interdicting drugs. Saying that ICE needed our support, he called attacks on the agency and calls to abolish it "shameless."
Trump praised the officers nominated for the 2018 IACP/Target Officer of the Year award, and he called them individually up on the stage after telling the audience about each of the heroic actions that led to their being considered for the honor.
* Officer Taylor S. Rust of the Plano (TX) Police Department saved the lives of four civilians when responding to shots fired in a residential neighborhood.
* Patrol Officer Mark A. Dallas of the Dixon (IL) Police Department stopped an active shooter in a high school before the suspect could harm any of the students. He was named the IACP/Target Officer of the Year.
* Washington State Patrol Trooper Nathaniel Dawson's involvement in a high-speed vehicle pursuit of two armed suspects led to the confrontation and eventual capture of the suspects.
* Sergeant Luis Celis of the Doral (FL) Police Department played a key role in stopping an active shooter incident at the Trump National Doral Resort when he pursued and apprehended the shooter. Trump expressed much gratitude to Sergeant Celis for his actions protecting his employees and resort guests.
In fact, Trump expressed much gratitude to all American officers and their loved ones. "You don't hear it from the media, but the people of America love you," he said. "I love you.” Closing he said his administration would always back law enforcement. "God bless you. God bless your families. God bless America."