ATLANTA (AP) - The head of a major black law enforcement group says President Donald Trump has sparked concerns with his comment that police shouldn't be "nice" to suspects as they lower them into police cars.

Perry Tarrant, assistant chief of the Seattle Police Department and current president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said he believes "off-the-cuff" comments like Trump's can detract from local police officers' efforts to build trust in their communities.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday addressed the NOBLE conference in Atlanta and also spoke to the group's leadership. Tarrant said Sessions told NOBLE leaders he believes Trump made the comments in jest but that he understands the effect such comments can have and underscored the Department of Justice's commitment to protecting everyone's civil rights.

Sessions did not directly address the president's comments, but said police officers need the support of the community as they do a dangerous job.

He told members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives that they deserve the support of every American, and said the Trump administration stands behind them. His comment drew applause.

Trump's comment on Friday is now described by the White House as a joke. It angered some police who said it only served to dial back progress they'd made with the people they serve.

Other attendees at the conference approached by The Associated Press declined to comment on the president's comments or Sessions' address.