Trump praises 'stop and frisk,' calls for tougher policing tactics

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump on Monday touted so-called stop and frisk policing tactics.
  • Trump has portrayed himself as a law and order candidate and made his support for law enforcement officers a pillar of his stump speeches.
  • Yet the president has also frequently assailed law enforcement tactics used to target his own supporters and business associates.
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 20, 2018
Mike Segar | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Monday touted so-called stop and frisk policing tactics, telling attendees at a chiefs of police convention that he has instructed the Justice Department to work toward reinstating the practice in Chicago. The city's police department voluntarily agreed to rein in its use of "stop and frisk" in 2015.

"'Stop and frisk' works and it was meant for problems like Chicago," Trump said during his speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. As evidence of how successful random police searches of suspicious-looking individuals have been in the past, Trump noted the record of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City.

"Rudy Giuliani, when he was mayor of New York City, had a very strong program of stop and frisk, and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country and I think the safest big city in the country, so it works," Trump told the police chiefs. "Got to be properly applied, but stop and frisk works."

President Trump to speak at International Association of Police Chiefs conference

The 2015 agreement reached between the ACLU and the Chicago Police Department, he said, "ties law enforcement's hands."

While it's difficult to isolate the effect of one policing tactic, the crime rate in New York City continued to drop even after stop and frisk was abandoned, suggesting it may not have played a significant role.

Tough on crime

Ever since launching his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump has portrayed himself as a law and order candidate, making support for law enforcement officers a pillar of his stump speeches.

As president, Trump has drawn criticism for encouraging law enforcement officers to treat suspects harshly, up to and including what sounded to many like support for violating constitutional rights.

In April 2017, Trump told a group of law enforcement officers on Long Island, New York, "Please don't be too nice," when detaining suspects. "Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?" he said. "You can take the hand away, OK?"

The comment received applause and laughter from his audience, but swift pushback from law enforcement associations.

Trump's support for tough policing tactics has also been reflected in policy decisions by his administration, such as the Justice Department's relaunch of the war on drugs in 2017. On Monday, Trump announced an additional $42 million for what he said were innovative programs to combat the nation's drug epidemic.

More recently, Trump used his administration's detention of families caught illegally crossing the U.S. border as an example of how tough he is on crime.

The policy resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents and held in detention starting in the spring of this year. Several federal judges have since ordered that the Trump administration must reunite these children with their parents.

During his speech Monday, Trump attacked Democrats, saying the party's members had vilified law enforcement officers, especially those with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A double standard?

Yet even as Trump championed tough measures against some criminals, he frequently assails these same law enforcement tactics when they are used to target his own supporters and business associates.

When federal agents raided the offices of Trump's then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, this spring, Trump immediately accused them of overreach, calling the raid "a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for," Trump said at the time.

Cohen has since pleaded guilty to eight felonies, and has said Trump instructed him to commit federal campaign finance violations, which Trump denied.

When Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was detained ahead of his trial this summer on charges of tax evasion and illegal foreign lobbying, Trump again accused law enforcement of using overly harsh tactics.

"Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns," Trump tweeted on July 15, referring to a judge's decision to remand Manafort to custody.

"Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone [sic], legendary mob boss, killer and 'Public Enemy Number One,' or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement - although convicted of nothing?" Trump later wrote.

In at least one case, Trump went further than merely complaining about the tough treatment of those close to him.

In August 2017, Trump issued a full pardon to former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, sparing the one-time law enforcement officer potential jail time after Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt related to his harsh treatment of detainees in his custody.

""Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration," the White House said in a statement about Arpaio's pardon. "Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is (a) worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon." Arpaio was a strong supporter of Trump's campaign for president in 2016.

The White House did not immediately respond Monday to questions from CNBC.