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Federal agents to be deployed in Milwaukee as DOJ expands “Operation Legend”

Dozens of federal agents are being sent to Milwaukee as the United States Department of Justice expands its “Operation Legend” program.
Attorney General William Barr participates in a law enforcement briefing on the MS-13 gang with...
Attorney General William Barr participates in a law enforcement briefing on the MS-13 gang with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 10:22 AM CDT
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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - Dozens of federal agents are being sent to Milwaukee as the United States Department of Justice expands its “Operation Legend” program.

The DOJ says the operation, which has previously been deployed to Kansas City and Chicago, is to “fight violent crime.”

On Wednesday, the DOJ announced the deployment of federal agents to Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland.

“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr. “Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, three cities that have seen disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides. For decades, the Department of Justice has achieved significant success when utilizing our anti-violent crime task forces and federal law enforcement agents to enforce federal law and assist American cities that are experiencing upticks in 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.”

Milwaukee will receive more than 25 federal investigators from the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger say there have been 97 homicides in Milwaukee this year, compared to 52 at the same time in 2019. Non-fatal shootings in the city are up 64 percent.

“Under the leadership of Matthew Krueger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, these investigators will complement the work already underway by existing joint federal, state and local task forces focused on combating violent crime, including offenses involving firearms and violent drug trafficking organizations. 10 of those federal investigators are assigned to work in Milwaukee temporarily to provide immediate assistance, and the others will be assigned over the coming year to Milwaukee permanently to provide long-term assistance,” reads a statement from the DOJ.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance is providing $1.9 million in funds to “violent crime reduction efforts” in Milwaukee. Departments in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa and Cudahy will receive funding to hire 29 officers.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has condemned the government’s decision to send federal officials to Milwaukee, saying the effort stokes “chaos and division.”

“During this administration, and especially in recent weeks, we have witnessed the President employment fascist tactics, including his demonization of immigrants, his attacks on communities with large minority populations and the elected representatives of those communities, the blatantly illegal use of force against protesters near the White House, and the deployment of secret federal police to Portland over the objections of state and local officials,” Kaul writes.

Kaul says he is worried the Operation Legend enforcement is a “short-term stunt” from the Trump administration.

“I have great respect for the dedicated federal agents and prosecutors in Wisconsin and across the country who work day in and day out to make communities safer,” Kaul says. ”Under ordinary circumstances, I would welcome the announcement of additional federal resources to help solve and prevent violent crimes in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that it’s happy to politicize law enforcement; the administration’s actions must be met with great skepticism.”

Kaul says he’ll take legal action should federal agents interfere with peaceful protests or attempt “to build arrest statistics without a broader concern for improving public safety.”

The deployment of federal law enforcement to cities has been controversial. The epicenter of the controversy is in Portland, were federal officers faced off with protesters in the streets. The ACLU has alleged that the federal agents have been targeting journalists and others not involved in violence. A report says the federal agents will start leaving the city on Thursday.

Krueger says the Milwaukee operation will be nothing like what’s happened in Portland.

“First, Operation Legend is not aimed at protest activity or civil disturbances. Operation Legend differs from the federal operation in Portland. In Portland, Customs and Border Patrol agents, working with the Federal Protective Service, were deployed to protect the Federal Courthouse, which had been repeatedly damaged. That is an entirely different mission from investigating violent crime,” says Krueger. “That is why Portland is not on the list of Operation Legend cities. You will not see federal agents massing on Milwaukee’s streets. Just like all the other Deputy U.S. Marshals and FBI, DEA, and ATF agents who have worked in Milwaukee for decades, the additional agents will investigate crime.”

CLICK HERE for Krueger’s full statement.

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