Donald Trump described himself as the "law and order" candidate Monday and pledged increased support for police in the wake of last week's mass killing in Dallas.
Citing rises in the killings of law enforcement officers, Trump told supporters in Virginia Beach that "our police officers rush into danger every single day to protect our communities, and they often do it thanklessly and under relentless criticism."
While most of his speech was devoted to veterans health care, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee took time to praise "the men and women in blue" as well as crime victims, just days after the Dallas attack and the police killings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Also declaring himself "the candidate of compassion," Trump vowed to improve conditions in "inner cities," where people live in fear of crime and need help, including improved police protection.
"Too many Americans are trapped in fear, violence, and poverty," Trump said.
"Law and order" is a familiar political slogan, one that Richard Nixon and allies used as far back as the 1968 election.
Critics of Nixon and subsequent Republican candidates who used the slogan described "law and order" as code words for cracking down on African Americans.
During his prepared speech in Virginia, Trump also pledged to investigate health care abuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs and again ripped into Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
The recent investigation into Clinton's use of private email while secretary of State shows "she's either a liar or grossly incompetent," Trump said. "Perhaps both."
Saying she should have been prosecuted over email of classified information, Trump said Clinton's entire career has been shadowed by "corruption and scandal."
The pro-Clinton group Correct The Record mocked Trump's claims, noting that he once said he would like to punch a protester in the face and on another occasion discussed paying the legal fees of a supporter who did in fact punch a protester.
"He is no man of law and order — let alone compassion," the group said in statement.
In his discussion of veterans health care, Trump proposed an immediate investigation into alleged abuses at the VA, policy changes that would allow veterans to use any doctor anywhere and the appointment of an official whose sole job will be to "clean up the VA." The GOP candidate also pitched revamped jobs programs for veterans.
"You defend America, and America will defend you," Trump said to vets.
That also goes for police officers, Trump said: "We must maintain law and order at the highest level or we will cease to have a country."
Referring to the police shootings of black men, Trump said "the tragic deaths in Louisiana and Minnesota make clear that the work must be done to ensure, and a lot of work, that Americans feel that their safety is protected ... We have to get better, better, sharper, smarter.