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Will President Trump gut civil rights policies in revamp of Justice Department?

Will President Trump gut civil rights policies in revamp of Justice Department?

A Donald Trump administration could radically reshape the Justice Department, particularly civil rights efforts that became one of its most pressing and high-profile priorities over the past eight years.

The department, under the Obama administration and the country’s first two black attorneys general, has investigated about two dozen police agencies for civil rights violations and reached court-enforceable consent decrees with many of them. It refused to defend a federal law that banned the recognition of gay marriage. It sued North Carolina over a bathroom bill that it said discriminated against transgender people. And it implemented new racial profiling limits on federal law-enforcement agencies.

But Trump’s election has stirred concern from civil rights advocates that some of that work could be undone, set aside or at least minimized under a Trump administration.

“The Civil Rights Division was just building a head of steam over the last two, three years, and it raises really serious concerns about whether we now lose traction on these issues,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said of a section that former Attorney General Eric Holder called the “crown jewel” of the department.

One overt change could come in the department’s approach toward policing and relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve, an issue that’s moved to the public forefront in the last two years.

Trump’s talk of a “law and order” approach to crime fighting and his praise for stop-and-frisk police tactics are out of step with a Justice Department that has advocated community policing and decried strategies it considers unconstitutional or discriminatory.

“He talked about things like the war on police, that we need more stop and frisk, that the Black Lives Matter movement has placed police officers at risk in ways that are really concerning,” said Jonathan Smith, a former Justice Department civil rights official who oversaw the investigation into discriminatory practices by the Ferguson, Missouri, police force.

“The last law-and-order president was Richard Nixon,” Smith said.

The rhetoric resembles that of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who’s expected to be considered for the position of attorney general.

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