Trump Announces Plan To Expand ‘Operation Legend’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he planned to expand “Operation Legend,” a federal law enforcement program targeting crime in Kansas City, Mo., to other cities in the country.
“In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade and relentlessly vilified our law enforcement heroes. To look at it from any standpoint, the effort to shut down policing in their own communities has led to a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders, and heinous crimes of violence. This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end.”
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Operation Legend’s launch earlier this month, citing a large spike in violent crime in the country. The program is named after LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old victim of gun violence in Kansas City. To address the growing gun violence, 100 deployed federal agents worked with local authorities to investigate homicides and gun-related crimes.
Operation Legend’s efficacy in Kansas City is questionable. U.S. Attorney General William Barr touted a large increase in arrests made thanks to this program, yet local newspaper Kansas City Star reported this might not be true.
The operation’s expansion will include additional agents for Kansas City as well as 100 agents in Chicago and 35 in Albuquerque, where violent crime has similarly spiked.
“We’ll work every single day to restore public safety, protect our nation’s children, and bring violent perpetrators to justice,” said Trump. “We’ve been doing it, and you’ve been seeing what’s happening all around the country. We’ve just started this process, and, frankly, we have no choice but to get involved.”
Democratic leaders in Chicago and Albuquerque have given mixed responses to this move. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who frequently spars with the President through the press and via Twitter, has signaled she welcomes the additional resources. Lightfoot opposed the deployment of federal agents at first, believing it would only add to tensions between law enforcement and city residents.
Meanwhile, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement, “Operation Legend is not real crime-fighting; its politics standing in the way of police work and makes us less safe.”
In the months since the officer-involved murder of George Floyd, protests have continued in Chicago and other cities. Some protests have turned violent, often due to police provocation like in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
Events in Portland, Ore., have only added to these concerns. Federal law enforcement agents have been deployed to protect federal buildings and monuments. However, reports have shown agents to be acting without proper identification and have frequently made arrests without cause.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has been an outspoken critic of this action, calling the President’s deployment of federal agents “staging ground to further his political agenda.” Wheeler joined protests outside the federal courthouse on Wednesday, where he and others were tear-gassed by federal agents.
Supporters of Operation Legend point out that the incidents in Portland are unrelated to this expansion. Still, leaders on the left remain wary, with some calling the operation a political stunt.
In his statement, Albuquerque Mayor Keller called the operation “bait and switch excuse to send secret police.” New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall issued a similar statement, saying the state leaders “should not tolerate the use of federal forces in our state for political purposes or in ways that cause mayhem and violate New Mexicans’ constitutional rights.”
Speculation that the President expanded Operation Legend for political reasons is not completely unfounded. For the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump has trailed the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls. As part of his fight to reclaim the lead, the President has pushed back against civil rights and police reform protests with rhetoric to energize pro-police voters.
At times, Trump has likened protests to “domestic terror” and called himself the “president of law and order.” Recent pro-Trump campaign ads have linked protests to urban and suburban violence, casting the President as the only person standing in the way of lawlessness.
Perhaps most telling, Trump denied claims that African-Americans are killed by police at higher rates than others in a recent interview with CBS. (The Washington Post has found this to be true.) As a result, Trump’s “law and order” message has rallied conservative voices, with some mirroring his rhetoric and others strongly supporting Operation Legend.
The Justice Department has also reported plans to further expand Operation Legend to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, and potentially Philadelphia and Baltimore.