Feds de­ploy­ing to more cities on crime mis­sion

Cities to get mil­lions in funds; Dems skep­ti­cal

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kris­tine Phillips

WASH­ING­TON – The Jus­tice Depart­ment plans to send nearly 100 fed­eral agents and officers to Detroit, Cleve­land and Mil­wau­kee in an ex­pan­sion of Op­er­a­tion Leg­end, a fed­eral crime initiative that be­gan ear­lier this month.

The depart­ment will send 42 agents to Detroit and more than 25 each to Cleve­land and Mil­wau­kee – cities that officials said have seen in­creases in vi­o­lent crime. The fed­eral officers, drawn from the FBI, Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion and other agen­cies,

“Given the events that have taken place in Port­land over the last few nights, I am ex­tremely con­cerned that Pres­i­dent Trump is look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate more po­lit­i­cal divi­sion in cities across the na­tion.” Mil­wau­kee Mayor Tom Bar­rett

will help lo­cal and state officials in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has said.

The an­nounce­ment comes as state and lo­cal officials, draw­ing from the un­rest in Port­land, Ore­gon, are in­creas­ingly skep­ti­cal and ap­pre­hen­sive of a surge of fed­eral law en­force­ment re­sources to their cities. Sev­eral bigc­ity may­ors have de­cried the ag­gres

sive use of fed­eral forces in Port­land and have ex­pressed reser­va­tions about the de­ploy­ments of agents to their cities.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr has de­fended the ex­pan­sion of Op­er­a­tion Leg­end, say­ing it’s tar­get­ing cities strug­gling with vi­o­lent crime, and the de­ploy­ments are differ­ent from the surge of officers in Port­land, where fed­eral agents have clashed with pro­test­ers.

“The most ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­ity of govern­ment is to pro­tect the safety of our cit­i­zens,” Barr said in a state­ment. “The Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s as­sets will sup­ple­ment lo­cal law en­force­ment efforts as we work to­gether to take the shoot­ers and chronic vi­o­lent crim­i­nals off of our streets.”

In Mil­wau­kee, Mayor Tom Bar­rett said last week that “given the events that have taken place in Port­land over the last few nights, I am ex­tremely con­cerned that Pres­i­dent Trump is look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate more po­lit­i­cal divi­sion in cities across the na­tion. Fed­eral agents are not wel­come here for that pur­pose.”

Matthew Krueger, U. S. at­tor­ney for Wis­con­sin’s eastern district, said the fed­eral officials com­ing to Mil­wau­kee will fo­cus on vi­o­lent crime, il­le­gal gun cases and slow­ing the city’s homi­cide rate – not re­spond­ing to civil un­rest.

In Detroit, Mayor Mike Dug­gan said he will sup­port the de­ploy­ment “so long as they are used in the con­tin­u­ing effort to en­force fed­eral laws on il­le­gal gun traffick­ing and gang vi­o­lence.”

“We be­lieve there is no law­ful ba­sis for Home­land Se­cu­rity in­ter­ven­tion in the Detroit protests to­day or for any in­creased pres­ence of Home­land Se­cu­rity agents in our com­mu­nity. To­day’s an­nounce­ment ap­pears to re­spect that po­si­tion,” Dug­gan tweeted Thurs­day.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment said it will al­lot mil­lions of fed­eral funds to the cities. Detroit will re­ceive $ 1.4 mil­lion to fight crime and $ 2.4 mil­lion to hire 15 po­lice officers. Cleve­land and Mil­wau­kee will re­ceive a larger share of the fund­ing, with each get­ting about $ 10 mil­lion to hire po­lice and pa­role officers and state troop­ers. Cleve­land and Mil­wau­kee will also re­ceive $ 1 mil­lion and nearly $ 2 mil­lion, re­spec­tively, to bat­tle crime.

Democrats have ques­tioned whether the ex­pan­sion of Op­er­a­tion Leg­end is a le­git­i­mate use of law en­force­ment – against the wishes of lo­cal and state officials – or a stunt to help Trump’s re­elec­tion.

Last week, Barr and Trump, who’s strug­gling in his re­elec­tion bid against Demo­cratic chal­lenger Joe Bi­den, an­nounced a surge of about 300 Op­er­a­tion Leg­end agents and officers to Chicago and 35 to Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Light­foot has given a stern warn­ing that any abuse of author­ity by fed­eral agents will face le­gal chal­lenges.

In Al­bu­querque, officials feared the city would suffer the same fate as Port­land. “If this was more than a stunt, th­ese politi­cians would sup­port con­sti­tu­tional crime fight­ing efforts that work for our com­mu­nity, not turn­ing Al­bu­querque into a fed­eral po­lice state,” Mayor Tim Keller has said.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment an­nounced Op­er­a­tion Leg­end ear­lier this month, be­gin­ning in Kansas City, Mis­souri. It was named af­ter LeG­end Tal­i­f­erro, a 4- year- old boy who was shot and killed in his sleep in June.

The an­nounce­ment comes on the same day Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has agreed to with­draw fed­eral officers from the streets of Port­land af­ter weeks of vi­o­lent clashes with demon­stra­tors. Act­ing Sec­re­tary of Home­land Se­cu­rity Chad Wolf said lo­cal and state po­lice will re­place the fed­eral officers in pro­tect­ing the fed­eral court­house in down­town Port­land.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sent Bor­der Pa­trol and im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment agents from the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity to Port­land, draw­ing crit­i­cisms from con­sti­tu­tional and law en­force­ment ex­perts who said such fed­eral officers are not trained in ur­ban polic­ing and crowd con­trol.

In his tes­ti­mony Wed­nes­day be­fore a House panel, Barr said “a mob” has hi­jacked le­git­i­mate protests against po­lice bru­tal­ity in Port­land. Au­thor­i­ties have said vi­o­lent in­sti­ga­tors have dam­aged the court­house and threat­ened and as­saulted fed­eral officers tasked with guard­ing the build­ing.

In the past week alone, fed­eral officials in Port­land have ar­rested and charged at least 40 pro­test­ers. Many of those ar­rested are ac­cused of as­sault­ing officers and fail­ing to com­ply with a law­ful order.

Con­tribut­ing: Kevin John­son of USA TO­DAY, Ali­son Dirr and Mary Spicuzza of the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel

CHIP SOMODEVILL­A/ GETTY IM­AGES

Op­er­a­tion Leg­end launched in early July.

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