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White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump was probably making a joke last week when he encouraged police officers to be tougher when making arrests.
In a Monday press briefing, Sanders said, "I believe he was making a joke at the time."
On Friday, the president said officers shouldn't be "too nice" when apprehending suspected gang members.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough," Trump said during a rally in Suffolk County. "I said, 'Please don't be too nice.'"
"Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head," Trump continued. "The way you put their hand over — like, don't hit their head and they just killed somebody, don't hit their head. I said, 'You can take the hand away, OK?'"
Trump's comments were widely criticized by law enforcement agencies across the country. The local police department in Suffolk County, where Trump made the remarks, said it does not and "will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners."
New York Police Department Commissioner James O'Neill condemned the president's remarks as "irresponsible and "unprofessional."
"To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public," O'Neill said in a statement.