US President Donald J. Trump made a reference on Friday to a long-criticized term “paddy wagon” while encouraging cops to use more force during arrests.
Speaking at Suffolk County Community College in the town of Brentwood, Long Island, New York, Trump told the crowd of law enforcement officers and crime victims’ families that he would encourage the police force to be to be rougher when making arrests, focusing his talk on his administration's plan to defeat the criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.
"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 announced to applause and cheers from many of the officers standing on the stage behind him.
“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 just told police officers that they can be more violent than they already are. And they cheered. pic.twitter.com/KjYI3pxcVG— deray mckesson (@deray) July 28, 2017
While not nearly as problematic as his suggestion that police officers be allowed to bang the heads of people they’re arresting, “Paddy wagon” has been regarded as a somewhat controversial term within Irish America by those who believe it is a reference to an old stereotype of the drunk, fighting Irish immigrants who were always being arrested for their bad behaviour. Others see it as a less insulting reference to the amount of Irish employed in the police service nationally, a profession that still remains a popular choice for Irish Americans.
Small group of his supporters were yelling "Blue Lives Matter" across the street from the venue to counter chants of "Black Lives Matter" https://t.co/5QSCWEcml4— Mary Mc Donnell (@MaryMc_D) July 28, 2017
In this context, Trump was referring to a different nationality of immigrants, who he alleges are making up the membership of MS-13. The President claims that the notorious gang, which has taken hold in several US cities in the past few decades, was allowed to grow as a result of lax immigration laws, despite evidence showing that the vast majority of gang members are US citizens, albeit with some Central American heritage.
“It is the policy of this administration to dismantle, decimate and eradicate MS-13,” he said, referring to their members several times as “animals”.
“They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields,” Trump continued.
“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 was immediately criticized for his comments by activists working to put an end to police brutality, in particular hoping to put an end to the violence that has led to the deaths whilst in police custody.
In Suffolk County, where Trump was speaking, their former police chief James Burke is currently serving a 46-month sentence for police brutality while 2009 data shows that 54.4% of black people aged between 18 and 29 have experienced harassment or violence at the hands of the police.
A survey by Police Magazine before last November’s election showed that 84% of law enforcement intended to vote for Trump.
Do you find the term “paddy wagon offensive”? Was President Trump wrong to advocate the use of further force in making arrests? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.