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President Trump Expands Federal Crime-Fighting Effort To Cities Beyond Kansas City, Missouri

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Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Missouri State Troopers, called in to Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday, May 30, line up across Broadway at West 47th St. on the Country Club Plaza. That night, Black Lives Matter protests went into the night, after Kansas City Police responded in heavy riot gear and used pepper spray and tear gas.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas called the president's claims of rising crime being related to recent social justice protests as "not just (a) dog whistle, but frankly dog bark, about racial politics.”

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to expand Operation LeGend from Kansas City into the cities of Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The announcement follows Trump’s statements earlier this week that his administration would send federal agents into largely Democratic-controlled cities in order to confront growing levels of violent crime.

“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 and their cities to spiral,” Trump said at the White House Wednesday.

The federal operation is named after four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City as he slept last month.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced last week that 200 federal agents would be sent to Kansas City as part of Operation LeGend, despite concerns from local leaders that that could further raise tensions between the community and police.

On Wednesday, Barr said federal agents will solely be focused on investigating unsolved murders and shootings and not responding to local protesters.

“These are street agents, they're investigators who will be working to solve murders and to take down violence. This is a different kind of operation, obviously, than the tactical teams we use to defend against riots and violence,” said Barr.

In Portland, Oregon, this week, federal authorities--some wearing unmarked uniforms--have clashed with demonstrators, and taken some into custody--as activists continue to push for police and social reforms in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Federal agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and U.S. Marshals Service will be sent to Chicago and Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said he had concerns that the federal law enforcement operation in his city would look like the one taking place in Portland.

“We absolutely do not want that, and that’s not real crime fighting. It’s politics standing in the way of actual police work to make our city more safe,” Keller told NPR on Wednesday.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said that he disagreed with the president’s belief that the cities’ high crime rates are linked to recent protests.

“We've had an increase in shooting activity, and unfortunately in homicides, since almost the beginning of the year. To suggest otherwise is to not just dog whistle, but frankly dog bark, about racial politics,” said Lucas.

Operation LeGend was also met with resistance from local activists and social justice organizations. On Friday night, protesters gathered outside the Kansas City Police headquarters downtown to protest the initiative.

Lora McDonald, director of the Kansas City-based social justice organization More2, says she has doubts about the effectiveness of the operation after agents announced their first arrest earlier this week.

“If it did take 200 federal agents to apprehend one man, who's 20, who had a weapon, could our agents who are already here not have done that? I don't see how you could call something like that a success,” said McDonald.

Officers under Operation LeGend made an arrest Monday of Monty W. Ray, 20, who was charged with being an unlawful drug user in possession of firearms in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

On Wednesday, Barr claimed Operation LeGend had already netted 200 arrests in Kansas City, but the Kansas City Star later reported that Justice officials later clarified those figures dated back to late last year.

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