- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2017

President Trump told police chiefs Wednesday that he has their backs, after years of law enforcement officials complaining that then-President Obama wasn’t supporting them as the Black Lives Matter movement took hold.

Addressing an annual winter meeting of sheriffs and police chiefs in Washington, Mr. Trump promised to put the full might of the federal government behind them, from stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. to enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy against those who attack law enforcement officers.

In perhaps the biggest departure from the Obama administration, Mr. Trump openly encouraged law enforcement officials to turn in illegal immigrant gang members in their communities to federal authorities.

“You know the illegals,” Mr. Trump told them. “You have the power. The federal government can never be that precise, but you’re in the neighborhoods. You know the bad ones. You know the good ones. I want you to turn in the bad ones.”

Referring to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, the president told the police chiefs, “Call Secretary Kelly’s representatives, and we’ll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we’ll do it fast.”

While the change in approach to law enforcement by Mr. Trump was expected, the difference was nevertheless stark.

Shortly after Mr. Obama took office in 2009, he took sides against the police in an incident in which a personal friend of his, black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, was arrested by a white Cambridge police officer while seeming to “break into” his own home because he’d forgotten his keys.

Mr. Obama said the police “acted stupidly.”

“There is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “That’s just a fact.”

After a storm of criticism, Mr. Obama tried to resolve the episode by hosting a “beer summit” at the White House with Mr. Gates and the officer, Sgt. James Crowley.

In his second term Mr. Obama faced persistent criticism and resentment from some law enforcement officials for sympathizing with the Black Lives Matter movement as demonstrators protested high-profile cases of unarmed black citizens being shot and killed by police.

The anti-police backlash led to planned assassinations of law enforcement officers in Dallas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; New York and elsewhere.

Mr. Obama formed a task force on policing to seek ways to promote cooperation between police and the communities they serve.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr. Trump believes communities need “good policing,” but the president also wants police to know he stands with them.

“He wants them to understand that he is a true friend. They have a true friend in the White House,” he said.

Mr. Trump told the gathering of law enforcement officials, “I have great, great love for what you do and the way you do it.”

“I believe that community safety begins with moral leadership,” the president said to applause. “Our police officers, sheriffs and deputies risk their lives every day, and they’re entitled to an administration that has their back.”

Noting that violence in large cities is on the rise, and that the number of law enforcement officers shot in the line of duty rose by 56 percent last year, Mr. Trump said, “We cannot allow this to continue.”

“Sixty percent of murder victims under the age of 22 are African-American,” Mr. Trump said. “This is a national tragedy, and it requires national action. We’re gonna take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from the terrible grip of violence.”

Also unlike President Obama, Mr. Trump never mentioned gun control in his address.

Of increasing violence against police, the president said, “It’s not fair. We must protect those who protect us.”

He pledged to build the wall along the border with Mexico, saying the wall “is getting designed right now.”

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,” the president said. “I wasn’t kidding. I don’t kid.”

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