Trump Orders More Federal Agents into Cities
U.S. President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that federal law enforcement agents will be sent to more cities, including Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The expansion of “Operation Legend” will be aimed at coordinating and supporting state and local law enforcement with federal law enforcement in an effort to suppress violent crime, according to a Justice Department press release.
“Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Chicago and Albuquerque to protect the residents of those cities from senseless acts of deadly violence by targeting those involved in gang activity and those who use guns to commit violent crime... The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets,” Attorney General Barr said in the 22 July release.
Chicago’s City Hall confirmed that Trump reached out to Mayor Lori Lightfoot about deploying 200 agents to the city to assist in existing federal investigations related to violent crimes.
“Mayor Lightfoot maintains that all resources will be investigatory in nature and be coordinated through the U.S. Attorney’s office. The Mayor has made clear that if there is any deviation from what has been announced, we will pursue all available legal options to protect Chicagoans,” the statement said. Federal agents will fall under the direction of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch.
The Justice Department noted an increase in violent crimes in Chicago, estimating that year-to-year homicides are up by 51 percent. That data seems to come from Chicago Police Department statistics for the week of 13 July to 19 July, when 26 murders were reported. Almost all other crimes have decreased from 2019 to 2020, however, with the exception of aggravated battery (1 percent increase, year to date).
The Chicago Sun Times’ crime statistics, based off of data from the Chicago Police Department, found that shootings and murders significantly increased in June 2020 compared to June 2019, although overall crime statistics for the month alone were not immediately available. “Six months into the year, 329 people have been killed in Chicago, an increase of about 34 percent from the 246 homicides during the same period last year, according to police. Shootings in that period rose by about 42 percent, from 978 in 2019 to 1384 in 2020,” the article said.
“Similarly, Albuquerque is currently on pace to break 2019’s record for homicides in the city,” Attorney General William Barr said in a press release.
Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller said that while the city would welcome a legal and constitutional partnership with federal agents to fight crime in the city, he was opposed to Trump’s decision, calling the move “a bait and switch excuse to send secret police.” Keller added that “Operation Legend is not real crime fighting; it's politics standing in the way of police work and makes us less safe.”
Trump’s statement on the expansion also targeted cities with democratic leaders, accusing them of refusing to take necessary actions to make their cities safer. “For decades, politicians running many of our nation’s major cities have put the interests of criminals above the rights of law-abiding citizens. These same politicians have now embraced the far-left movement to break up our police departments, causing violent crime in their cities to spiral—and I mean spiral seriously out of control,” Trump said.
Both Keller and Lightfoot alluded to the actions of the roughly 100 federal agents sent to Portland, Oregon, who released tear gas against protesters and were seen forcing some protesters into unmarked cars, in some instances allegedly without cause.
Protesters have been meeting every night in downtown Portland for the past eight weeks, calling for reforms to the city's police bureau. The protests were described by Trump as “a radical movement to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments.”
Oregon officials at all levels objected to their tactics and demanded that the agents leave, including a ban from the City Council for police employees to stop cooperating with federal law enforcement. Portland mayor Ted Wheeler joined some 2,000 protesters Wednesday night, with federal officers also in attendance of the mostly peaceful demonstration.
After some individuals threw objects, walked inside a new perimeter fence around the city’s courthouse, and shot fireworks toward the building, the federal officers tear-gassed the crowd, including Wheeler and his team of city security officers.
Operation Legend was first launched on 8 July in Kansas City, Missouri; the campaign’s first federal arrest was announced on 20 July.