The acting director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has chastised President Donald Trump for urging law enforcement officers not to be "too nice" when physically detaining criminal suspects, urging DEA agents to maintain "the very highest standards" when involved in such situations.
Acting Director Chuck Rosenberg emailed a memo to DEA personnel on Saturday, one day after Trump seemingly encouraged excessive police force when addressing police in Brentwood, New York.
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just want them thrown in, rough. I said, please don't be too nice," Trump said, drawing applause and laughter from the officers.
The president's remarks drew criticism from many local law enforcement agencies, as well as Rosenberg's memo to DEA agents.
"I write to offer a strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals, adhere," Rosenberg wrote. "I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong."
Rosenberg was the first head of a federal agency to object to the president's remarks. The White House and the Justice Department, which oversees the DEA, have declined to respond to the memo.
Rosenberg is a holdover from the administration of President Barack Obama and was not nominated by Trump. He is a longtime Justice Department official who was twice a U.S. attorney in the administration of George W. Bush. Rosenberg said the memo was not politically motivated, but only a reminder to his agents to maintain their core values of integrity and accountability.
Police brutality and law enforcement killings of black suspects have long triggered protests throughout the U.S., prompting many police departments in recent years to begin using body cameras to record interactions between police and the public.
During his presidential campaign, Trump was endorsed by several police unions after he promised to be tough on crime and more supportive of police than Obama.