Trump to cops: 'Don't be too nice'

President Trump on Friday encouraged police officers to treat suspects violently during a speech on curbing gang activity on Long Island, N.Y. 

Trump suggested officers allow suspects' heads to hit the doors of police vehicles after they are placed under arrest.

"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddywagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, ‘Please don't be too nice," Trump told an audience of law enforcement officers and crime victims’ families. 

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“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” the president continued. “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’s comments drew laughter and applause from many of the officers standing behind him on stage. 

The president's speech was intended to lay out his administration's plan to defeat the criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.

He was speaking at Suffolk County Community College in the town of Brentwood, near where the gang has pulled off a string of violent attacks, including an April massacre that left four people dead.

“It is the policy of this administration to dismantle, decimate and eradicate MS-13,” he said.

The gang has taken root in several major U.S. metropolitan areas in the past few decades.

In his speech, Trump made a link between what he sees as lax immigration enforcement and the rise of gang-related crime. MS-13 was established in Los Angeles but its members are mostly of Central American heritage. Many gang members, however, are U.S. citizens.

Trump said he was focused on the gang because of its gruesome tactics, saying members don’t like to shoot their victims because it kills them too quickly. 

“MS-13 is particularly violent,” he said. “They life to knife 'em and cut 'em and let 'em die slowly.”

Trump repeatedly referred to members of the gang as “animals.”

He painted a bleak picture of a New York besieged by endless violence perpetrated by the gang. 

“They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields,” he said. “We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful, vibrant people — sons and daughters, even husbands and wives. We cannot accept this violence one day more.”

The president said he was working with members of Congress on a series of new measures. He also asked lawmaker to provide funding for an additional 10,000 federal immigration enforcement and removal officers, which would more than double the current number.

Critics said the president's endorsement of rough tactics could make it tougher for police to work with immigrant communities to root out gang elements. 

"Law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect," the International Association of Chiefs of Police said in a statement. "This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy."

This story was updated at 4:02 p.m.