NH police cautious over Trump’s ‘nice’ comment

When President Donald Trump told officers last week that they ought to not “be too nice” to suspects in custody, police say he ran afoul of decades of law enforcement philosophy in the Granite State.

Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen, one of the vice presidents of the New Hampshire Association of Chief’s of Police, said officers in New Hampshire all strive to live by community policing standards.

“We have professional standards that we hold all of our officers to,” Hautanen said.

Trump made the remarks while giving a speech on the MS-13 gang problem at Suffolk Community College in New York. Even though Trump garnered applause from some of the police officers at the speech, his statements have become a lightening rod for criticism from community activists and police associations.

Trump told the officers that they should not been too concerned with treating suspects well.

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car, according to a report in the Washington Post. “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?”

Though some see Trump as joking, many police officers do not see it as a laughing matter.

“There are some things that don’t have much humor, particularly in the environment we have today,” Darrel Stephens, a former Charlotte police chief and now executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association told the Washington Post. “Even if it’s an attempt at humor, it sends the wrong message.”

Hautanen did not see the speech, taking last week off for vacation, but said police officers in New Hampshire live and work in small communities where they end up knowing everyone. The guiding principle for New Hampshire officers is to treat everyone, including suspects, with respect.

“You treat someone as you would want to be treated in the same situation, or as you would want your loved one to be treated,” Hautanen said.