Homeland Security spokesman Dave Lapan echoed the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday, when asked to respond to President Trump’s comment last week that police shouldn’t “be too nice” putting suspects into cars.
Lapan told reporters that DHS officers are "very clear" on how they are expected to conduct themselves.
"We don't feel a message is necessary because our staff clearly understands what is expected of them," Lapan said. He said they would continue to "respect human rights and civil rights ... and not engage in abuse."
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan similarly said last week that ICE is going to “enforce the law” while also making sure “people's civil rights are protected.” Homan said he thinks Trump was really referring to going after violent gangs.
Trump made the original comments while talking about targeting MS-13 and other criminal operations, during remarks to law enforcement on Long Island. "When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough," Trump said 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, okay?'"
White House officials have since downplayed Trump’s comments. “I believe he was making a joke at the time,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during the July 31 White House press briefing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a major black law enforcement group Tuesday in Atlanta where Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said Sessions told him Trump’s remarks were made “in jest.”