WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump and his Justice Department have signaled they will change the way they will interact with local law enforcement, raising concern among minorities that the pendulum will swing toward protecting police in sometimes strained police-community relations.

Trump is expected to talk about the need to get tougher on crime as part of a broad-ranging address to Congress on Tuesday night, focusing on things such as fighting gang violence and confronting heroin epidemics.

Elizabeth Snyder, widow of slain St. Louis County Officer Blake Snyder, will be in the House of Representatives gallery for the speech. She will attend as the guest of Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin; and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. Also attending at the behest of Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, will be the new St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, the first African-American to serve in that office.

Their inclusion at Trump’s 8 p.m. address signifies the ongoing concerns over law enforcement and justice in the St. Louis region, 30 months after the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

In the wake of Brown’s death, the administration of Barack Obama forced Ferguson into a “consent decree” listing reform initiatives that are now under the control of a federal mediator. In addition, St. Louis County is still in the midst of a voluntary federal review by the Justice Department.

This year, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar expressed frustration at the pace of the feds’ work in that review, calling it a “missed opportunity.”

Now Trump is signaling that his Justice Department will take what he recently said was “a firm, firm stance to protect our cops, sheriffs and police from crimes of violence against them.”

“We will work with our police, not against our police,” Trump said in a speech in Florida this month.

One of the president’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order saying his administration would “enforce all laws” to protect “federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement” and to “pursue appropriate legislation… that will define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers.”

Trump has met with leaders of the National Sheriff’s Association and those of other law enforcement groups. The sheriff’s association’s director, Jonathan Thompson, has met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with top officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Thompson said the Trump administration is seeking “continuity and consistency” in going after “anyone who seeks to attack or harm a law enforcement officer, whether federal, state or local, that there are significant federal repercussions.”

He said the federal government has several options besides tougher federal laws, including funding for better training for local police forces.

But Thompson also said he believes the Trump administration is considering changes in how it will respond to police shootings of civilians.

Rather than “looking at entire (police) agencies for the misbehavior of a few,” he said, he believes the Justice Department under Trump will shift from “patterns and practices” evaluations of entire departments to “looking at it from individual behaviors up.”

Under Obama, he said, “we were very concerned that oftentimes there (was) the use of a blunt bureaucratic stick to achieve a more focused outcome.”

Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman and candidate for mayor, said that is a reason for concern.

If anything, French said, Obama’s Justice Department cast too narrow of a net in investigating just Ferguson, and not other jurisdictions.

“Now that we have the Trump-Sessions Department of Justice, there is not a lot of faith that these issues, of police accountability, police abuse, are really going to be taken seriously by this Department of Justice,” he said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump’s speech will include a section describing how “help is on the way” to troubled inner cities, but there was no clear picture what that means. French said he will listen to the speech, and hopes Trump reaches out to minorities concerned about bad policing.

“I would appreciate if, in his scripted remarks, he toned that (rhetoric) down a bit and reached out to minority communities, people of color, people of different religions, to let them know we are all working together to make our communities safer (instead of) this law and order, them vs. us mentality,” French said.

Democrats on Monday vowed to keep watch over Sessions’ Justice Department.

“If they move away from where the Obama administration has been, which I think has been fair, and we will certainly do everything we can to call them out for it,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Sessions, the new attorney general, is expected to deliver one of his first major speeches to state attorneys general Tuesday.

Thompson, the National Sheriffs Association’s executive director, said it was a “fair question” to ask if the Trump administration was swinging the pendulum too far toward law enforcement and against those worried over bad cops and policing.

“I think we have a bad history in this country of swinging one end to the other in our pendulum of response,” Thompson said. “In my discussions with folks inside Justice and elsewhere in the administration, I believe there is a healthy respect that we not do that.”

Chuck Raasch • 202-298-6880

@craasch on Twitter