U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in remarks at an African-American church on Wednesday praised “stop-and-frisk” policing methods, which have aroused protests and successful legal challenges on grounds they single out minorities.
The anti-crime tactic, which involves police officers stopping, questioning and searching pedestrians for weapons or contraband, gained traction in New York City under the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, now a top Trump supporter.
But opposition to the practice led police departments in New York, as well as Chicago and Newark, New Jersey, to agree to cut back on its use, in some cases submitting to outside monitoring and improving police training.
“I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to,” Trump said, according to excerpts of a Fox News “town hall” in Cleveland after an audience member asked what he would do to reduce crime in predominantly black communities across the nation.
“I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City it was so incredible, the way it worked,” Trump said.
Ending the practice in New York was a key plank of Democrat Bill de Blasio’s successful 2013 run for mayor.
With the race tightening between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton ahead of the Nov. 8 election, he has been reaching out to African-American voters, who opinion polls show largely favor Clinton.
Trump has portrayed himself as the “law-and-order candidate.” But Clinton has criticized many of his proposals as unconstitutional attacks on American freedoms.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his statement, nor did Clinton’s.
‘WE ARE VICTIMS’
Anger over police tactics has escalated as fatal police encounters with African-Americans, many of them unarmed, have sparked protests and unrest in communities across the country.
In his appeal to African-American voters, Trump has lamented the woes of black communities and invited people who traditionally vote Democratic to take a chance on him. But his often dire portrayals of life for African-Americans have fallen flat with some black voters.
Connie Tucker, a pastor at Father Heart Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, said she liked policies that yielded results, so if stop-and-frisk helped reduce crime, she was for it. But Tucker, who is white, said she sensed discomfort in the room at Trump’s answer.
“I felt like there was a pause,” she said.
Geoff Betts, 38, who was also in the crowd at the town hall event and who is black, said he felt dismayed by Trump’s response.
Betts, a distributor of hair products, said he was registered to vote as an independent and attended the town hall because he was curious about what Trump would say to try to win over black voters. He said he thought police unfairly discriminated against black citizens and that he opposed stop-and-frisk.
“We are victims,” he said, adding he walked out of the town hall while it was still under way.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore, I had to go,” he said. “I don’t think that Donald Trump gets it.”
(Reporting by Emily Flitter, Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
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