The Trump administration's tough talk on crime and the treatment of suspects has left some black police officers worried his words could derail efforts to improve the relationship between police and minority communities.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday addressed a major black law enforcement group in Atlanta, just days after President Donald Trump said police shouldn't be 'nice' to suspects by shielding their heads as they are lowered, handcuffed, into police cars.
The comment, now described by the White House as a joke, angered some cops who said it only served to dial back progress they'd made in the communities they serve.
Black police officers at the event talked of straddling two worlds: the communities where they live, and the police departments where they work.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday addressed a major black law enforcement group in Atlanta, just days after President Donald Trump said police shouldn't be 'nice' to suspects
President Donald Trump was 'making a joke' when he gave police the green light to engage in street justice against murder suspects, the White House says
They take seriously their oath to uphold the law and to go after criminals, but they also worry about their own friends, relatives and neighbors who fear the police.
'We live in some of the same communities that are affected by this disparate treatment. We go to church in those neighborhoods. We go to the barbershops.'
'Certain things people don't realize: It's really hard being black and being a police officer when these things happen,' said Clarence E. Cox III, former chief of Clayton County Schools in Georgia and incoming president of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Seattle Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, told reporters Sessions also spoke privately with the organization's leadership.
When asked if he believes Trump was joking, Tarrant said, 'Whether intentional or unintentional, it was heard around the country by the folks, by the very communities that we're trying to build relationships with and I believe it had an impact.'
Sessions didn't apologize for the president's comment and said he believes it was made in jest, but said he understands the effect such comments can have and underscored the Department of Justice's commitment to protecting everyone's civil rights, Tarrant said.
Other conference attendees approached by The Associated Press declined to discuss Trump's comments or Sessions' address.