Lesser DOJ Police Role Called ‘Historic Shift in Public Policy’

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After serving as an aggressive watchdog for police misconduct during the Obama administration, the Department of Justice could see its role diminished under Donald Trump, the Baltimore Sun reports. Such a shift would drastically alter the federal response to the ongoing debate around policing at a time when many local departments are ill-equipped to tackle reforms on their own, analysts said. It will be a “cataclysmic change,” said Jonathan Smith, a former chief of special litigation in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, where he oversaw more than 20 investigations into police agencies. “The world really did change under our feet.” Trump, the self-styled “law and order” candidate, said he would reintroduce the controversial stop-and-frisk policies criticized by the Obama DOJ across the nation.

Criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, said those differences in tone are likely to be reflected in how Trump deploys his Justice Department. “This is a historic shift in public policy, and the policies in the federal government, and that’s based on Trump’s words, the Republican platform and the various people who are his advisers and supporters,” Walker said. The shift could have a powerful impact in Baltimore, where Obama’s Justice Department is currently negotiating a court-enforced consent decree mandating police reforms with city officials. A recent Justice Department investigation found discriminatory and unconstitutional practices at nearly all levels of the Baltimore Police Department.

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