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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers remarks as he rallies with supporters in Toledo, Ohio, U.S., September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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By Emily Flitter

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would consider using "stop-and-frisk" policing methods to cut crime if elected, according to two people who attended a Fox News "town hall" taping at a predominantly African-American church in Cleveland.

With the race tightening between Trump and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election, the Republican candidate recently began wooing African-American voters.

Stop-and-frisk, however, has been the target of protests and successful legal challenges in New York and other big American cities in recent years as a tactic that unfairly singles out minority citizens and violates their civil rights.

In the tactic, officers stop pedestrians, question them and then search them for weapons or contraband.

At the town hall, Trump praised stop-and-frisk, according to an excerpt of the interview released by Fox News.

He made his statement in response to an audience member's question about what the New York businessman would do to reduce crime in predominantly black communities across the nation, said the two people, Geoff Betts and Connie Tucker.

Betts, 38, who is black, said he felt dismayed by Trump's response.

Tucker, who is white and supports Trump, said she sensed discomfort in the room when the candidate gave his answer.

"I felt like there was a pause," she said.

The town hall, moderated by Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, taping was closed to journalists. Betts and Tucker both described their experiences after it ended.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his statement, nor did Clinton's.

Trump has portrayed himself as the "law-and-order candidate." But Clinton has criticized many of his proposals as unconstitutional attacks on American freedoms.

According to Tucker, Trump said he liked stop-and-frisk because it had worked well during the administration of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who served from 1996 to Dec. 31, 2001 who is now a major Trump supporter. The tactic was supported by Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg.

In appealing to African-American voters, Trump has lamented the woes of black communities in speeches and invited people who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates to take a chance on him. But his often-dire portrayals of life for African-Americans have fallen flat with some black voters.

Anger over police tactics has escalated since the stop-and-frisk controversies, as the deaths of African-Americans, many of them unarmed, at the hands of police have sparked unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and other cities.

The opposition to "stop-and-frisk" led police departments in New York, as well as Chicago and Newark, New Jersey to agree to cut back on its use, in some cases submitting to outside monitoring and improving police training. In New York, ending the practice was a key plank of Democrat Bill de Blasio's successful 2013 run for mayor.

Tucker, a pastor at Father Heart Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, said she liked policies that yielded results, so if stop-and-frisk helped reduce crime, she was for it.

Betts, a distributor of hair products, said he is registered to vote as an independent and that he attended the town hall because he was curious about what Trump would say to try to win over black voters. He said he thinks police unfairly discriminate against black citizens and he is against stop-and-frisk.

"We are victims," he said, adding he walked out of the town hall while it was still under way.

"I just couldn't take it anymore, I had to go," he said. "I don't think that Donald Trump gets it."

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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