“I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Headley said.
On Friday afternoon, Trump denied that he’d used the phrase as a threat. “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.," he tweeted.
In 1967, a Miami Herald report on Headley’s comments said “his men have been told that any force, up to and including death, is proper when apprehending a felon.”
Headley, the Miami police chief for 20 years, liked to brag that he was early to hire black police officers, though only white officers were allowed to be called “policemen.” Black officers were called “patrolmen.” By 1967, any semblance of outreach toward minorities became a non-starter for Headley.
“Community relations and all that sort of thing has failed,” he said during his news conference. “We have done everything we could, sending speakers out and meeting with Negro leaders. But it has amounted to nothing.”
He had a message for those in the black community.
“Don’t these people know that most of the crimes in the Negro districts are against Negroes?” he said, according to the Miami Herald. “Don’t they know we’re trying to protect Negroes as well as whites?”
In August of 1968, the city exploded during the Republican National Convention. Three days of violence left three people dead and 18 wounded. More than 200 people were arrested.
Headley wasn’t even in town. He was in North Carolina on vacation.
His officers “know what to do,” he said, according to the New York Times, apparently echoing his 1967 comment again: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Headley’s threats to kill caused massive upheaval and several investigations. The looting quote was echoed by others, including presidential candidate George Wallace, who uttered it on the campaign trail.
The chief died in November 1968, several months before a report on the unrest was released by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.
“Chief Headley,” the report said, “did not believe that community relations programs with minority groups are a part of the law enforcement responsibility, and he made no attempt to establish systematic communications with the Miami black community.”
The report continued: “Whether or not the policy of the Miami Police Department was actually as tough and as discriminatory as the published reports indicated, there was sufficient substance to them to keep the black community in a state of continued agitation during the next eight months from December 1967 to August 1968.”
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