ATLANTA - The U.S. attorney general responded to law enforcement officials after President Donald Trump told police officers to get tough on people they arrest.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Atlanta Tuesday speaking to officers for a national conference.
Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston was at the event and said Sessions appeared nervous speaking before the 1,300 officers in downtown Atlanta, losing his place, mispronouncing words, but in the end, he was clear, he wanted the officers to know the administration has their back.
The officers also had a message for the president.
"We are not thugs, we are professionals," said Perry Tarrant, the head of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE.
Tarrant was responding to Trump's recent comments that police officers should not only be tough on crime, but anyone they arrest as well.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, please don't be too nice," Trump said.
"We will not back off of our responsibility to ensure the U.S. Constitution, particularly the 14th Amendment. Equal treatment applies," Tarrant told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston.
NOBLE is having their national conference in Atlanta.
Sessions gave the opening remarks during their awards luncheon Tuesday.
The White House has said Trump was joking when he made that “don't be too nice” comment.
"You didn't take it as a joke?" Huddleston asked Tarrant.
“Whether intentional or unintentional, it's heard around the country, by the folks we're trying to build relationships with and I believe it had an impact," Tarrant said.
During his speech, Sessions didn't apologize for the president’s comments but reiterated the importance of officers working with the people they serve.
"We have to have good relationships with our communities and we have to be effective," Sessions said.
Sessions has questioned the federal civil rights investigations that marked the Obama administration's efforts to overhaul troubled police departments, often after high-profile deadly police encounters with black men inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations.
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Sessions has been traveling the country touting his tough-on-crime agenda. He believes rising violence and the nation's opioid epidemic require a return to tougher tactics, vowing to make fighting ordinary street crime a top priority for a Justice Department.
Huddleston obtained a copy of NOBLE’s policy on the use of force that they have distributed to departments across the country.
Sessions also told the group he is committed to working with them to reduce crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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