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Trump says Chicago police should use ‘stop and frisk’ tactics to curb shootings

President  Trump waves after speaking at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference Monday in Orlando.
President Trump waves after speaking at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference Monday in Orlando. (Alex Brandon/AP)

ORLANDO — President Trump urged Monday that police in Chicago implement the policy of “stop and frisk” to curb the gun violence that is plaguing the nation’s third-largest city.

In a hard-edged and at times overtly political address to thousands of law enforcement officers here, Trump also crowed about the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and said the sexual assault allegations against him had been orchestrated by “evil” people.

Trump said he had directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s office to immediately visit Chicago to help the city address its wave of deadly shootings.

“We’re going to straighten it out, and we’re going to straighten it out fast,” Trump said. He added later: “Let’s see whether or not Chicago accepts help. They need it.”

The president suggested that Chicago implement the stop-and-frisk tactic, in which police officers stop, question and frisk people they suspect may be dangerous or may have committed a crime.

“It works, and it was meant for problems like Chicago: Stop and frisk,” he said.

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Trump argued that the policy helped reduce violent crime in New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor. Giuliani is now Trump’s personal attorney in the Russia investigation.

But the concept of “stop, question and frisk” as a means of proactive policing has come under fire in recent years because statistics show it was imposed disproportionately on racial minorities.

The New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was criticized as racial profiling, and in 2013 a federal judge ruled that it was discriminatory and unconstitutional. After New York City stopped the policy in 2014, the city’s murder and overall crime rate continued to drop. But Trump still touted it on the campaign trail in 2016.

Trump’s references to the violence in Chicago have been largely unchanged over the years, even as the situation on the ground has shifted. In 2016, Chicago had 762 homicides, more than New York and Los Angeles combined.

Since then, the levels of violence have declined. The Chicago Police Department reported last week that the number of homicides has fallen to 419 in the first nine months of 2018 from 520 during the same period in 2017, a 19 percent decline. The number of shootings is down 17 percent from last year as well, according to the department’s statistics.

Chicago police deferred to the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) to respond to Trump’s comments.

“Even someone as clueless as Donald Trump has to know stop-and-frisk is simply not the solution to crime,” mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath said in an emailed statement. “Just last week CPD reported there have been 100 fewer murders and 500 fewer shooting victims in Chicago this year, the second straight year of declines — all while we’ve been making reforms to restore trust with residents. The fact that he’s trotting out this tired rhetoric is another sign he’s worried about Republicans in the midterms.”

Trump was enthusiastically received in Orlando on Monday as he addressed the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, attended by thousands of law enforcement officials from big cities and small towns.

Hours ahead of Kavanaugh’s ceremonial swearing-in at the White House, Trump celebrated Kavanaugh’s confirmation here in Orlando as scores of police officers, some of them in uniform, burst into hearty applause.

Trump called Kavanaugh “an extremely qualified nominee who will be a faithful defender of the rule of law and will defend the United States Constitution.” Referencing the sexual misconduct allegations, Trump said Kavanaugh was the victim of “a disgraceful situation brought about by people who were evil.”

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Trump also sought to pit law enforcement officials against the news media. He tried to shame the media for, in his view, not sufficiently covering the extent to which Americans admire law enforcement in their communities.

Motioning to the journalists cordoned off on the side and around a large camera riser in the back of the ballroom, Trump said, “You don’t hear it from them!”

“I know the true feelings,” he continued. “You don’t hear it from the media, but I can tell you. I know the feeling. These people, the people of our country, love you.”

Scores of law enforcement officers stood to cheer Trump.

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Trump’s speech in Orlando was an official taxpayer-funded White House trip, as opposed to one of his “Make America Great Again” campaign rallies. But with the midterm elections just four weeks away, the political nature of his remarks was unmistakable. He sought to weld his policies and his Republican Party with the values and agenda of law enforcement, saying his administration “will always honor, cherish and support the men and women in blue.”

Trump called it “disgraceful” that some politicians “escalate political attacks on our courageous police officers.” He added, “Politicians who spread this dangerous, anti-police sentiment make life easier for criminals and more dangerous for law-abiding citizens.”

In case it was not clear which politicians he was referring to, he made it explicit later in his remarks: “The Democrats fight us at every turn, whether it’s military or law enforcement.”

Trump, however, has long voiced his own negative sentiments about federal law enforcement, regularly tweeting criticisms of the Justice Department and the FBI, which he has attacked for the wide-ranging investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has repeatedly invoked Chicago’s gun violence, claiming shortly after taking office that the bloodshed there is “very easily fixable.” And he has suggested that police could fight the violence there by being “much tougher.”

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Federal authorities have been working in Chicago — including an effort announced last year involving the Justice Department. Days after his inauguration, Trump threatened to “send in the feds” in response to the city’s violence. In June 2017, police in Chicago and the Justice Department announced a “Crime Gun Strike Force” combining local, state and federal law enforcement officials to target illegal guns.

The Chicago police have cited illegal guns as a driving force behind the city’s bloodshed. In a report last year, police and city officials said that most illegal guns recovered in Chicago came from outside Illinois, with many coming from neighboring Indiana.

In Chicago, police officers using stop-and-frisk tactics stopped black residents 72 percent of the time, research found, though blacks made up only 32 percent of the population.

In 2015, Chicago police reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union to overhaul their stop-and-frisk practices, hire an independent evaluator and improve training. Trump criticized that agreement in his speech Monday.

There remain arguments among criminologists over whether stop-and-frisk is an effective strategy. Some argue that it alienates a community with whom officers are trying to build trust and creates lasting resentment. Recent Justice Department studies of Baltimore and Newark criticized those departments for the impact of stop and frisk.

Others argue it can be used effectively, however, particularly in precisely targeted areas, to deter or prevent crime.

Tom Jackman in Orlando and Mark Berman in Washington contributed to this report.