Donald Trump paints bleak picture as he rallies police chiefs

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb 7, 2017.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb 7, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump played up the threat from terrorism, drugs, violent crime and immigration on Wednesday (Feb 8), as he sought to rally US police chiefs around his uncompromising law-and-order agenda.

He claimed that spiralling murder rates and assassinations of police officers were developments that support a tougher line on security, in an address to the chiefs of police and sheriffs from major US cities.

"In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings. In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone," Trump said. "This is a national tragedy."

Trump's law and order agenda suffered a major blow last Friday (Feb 3) when a district court froze his temporary travel ban on migrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations and all refugees.

Since then, Trump has gone on the offensive - blaming the courts for hampering counterterrorism and holding a series of high-profile events with police, county sheriffs and military personal at US Central Command.

He has promised personnel more equipment and support, while talking up the threat from terror and other violence - unusually political comments for a president speaking to uniformed personnel.

On Wednesday, Trump received scattered polite applause from around 400 officers during his speech, which included a suggestion that consignments of drugs and scores of people "with very evil intentions" were trying to make their way into the country.

According to researchers at the Rand Corporation, Americans spend US$100 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.

As in previous days, Trump also underscored the threat from terrorism.

"I've learned a lot in the last two weeks, and terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand," Trump said. "But we're going to take care of it. We're going to win."

Trump called on local law enforcement officers to report gang members to the Department of Homeland Security.

"You have that power because you know them. You're there, you're local. You know the illegals, you know them by their first name. You know them by their first name. You know them by their nicknames, you have that power," he said.

"I want you to turn in the bad ones - call Secretary (John) Kelly's representatives and we'll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from and we'll do it fast."

Amid scandals over the shooting of unarmed black civilians, Trump also said the country was backing officers: "Don't let the dishonest media try and convince you it's different than that, because it's not."