“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” [Attorney General William] Barr said in a statement. “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.”
The Justice Department plans to send nearly 100 federal agents and officers to Detroit, Cleveland, Ohio, 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 officials said have seen rising violent crime rates. The federal officers, drawn from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies, will help local and state officials in criminal investigations, the Justice Department has said.
The announcement comes as state and local officials, drawing from the unrest in Portland, Oregon, are increasingly skeptical and apprehensive of a surge of federal law enforcement resources to their cities. Several big-city mayors have decried the aggressive 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 different from the surge of officers 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 efforts, 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. If the federal presence is to truly cooperate with local law enforcement, then it is imperative the limits of their activities are clearly delineated and monitored.”
Matthew Krueger, U.S. attorney for Wisconsin’s eastern district, said the federal officials coming to Milwaukee will focus on violent crime, illegal gun cases and slowing the city’s rising homicide rate – not responding to protests or civil unrest.