CLEVELAND — More federal agents are being sent to Cleveland as part of a U.S. Department of Justice initiative "to quell the unacceptable levels of recent violence in U.S. cities," the White House confirmed Wednesday.
The move is part of President Donald Trump's "Operation Legend," which arose amid his claims of "a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police department." The feds are already in Portland, Oregon and will next go to Kansas City, Chicago, and Albuquerque before eventual expansion into Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
"My first duty as President is to protect the American people, and today I am taking action to fulfill that sacred obligation," Trump said.
The cities being targeted by Trump are almost exclusively controlled by Democrats, with the Republican president claiming a rise in violent crime is the result of the "radical left" even though criminal justice experts dispute those simplified remarks and contend crime is actually down this year overall. Local authorities have also contended the increase in federal agents has only exacerbated tensions on the streets.
The Black Shield Police Association issued a statement Thursday condemning the arrival of federal agents in Cleveland and in other cities across the U.S., also asking officials to reconsider the decision.
"The Black Shield Police Association does not support the deployment of militarized federal agents to Cleveland and other cities across the nation. We believe that deployment of an intentionally secretive federal militarized police force, displays overreach, and is not supported by Constitutional law or norms.
Our American values do not align with forces who are not accountable or easily identifiable to the local citizens they purport to protect. Public safety officials must be transparent to hold each other accountable and to provide transparency to the citizens we help, protect and guide through dangerous situations.
Sending militarized police to Cleveland and other cities across the nation will only serve to continue to destroy the already tense line of trust between our community members, our families, and us as law enforcement officers.
We respectfully ask that this action is reconsidered." their statement read.
The first surge of officers to Portland brought widespread criticism amid reports of agents in unmarked cars taking people away without probable cause. Chicago Mayor (and Massillon native) Lori Lightfoot initially resisted efforts to send hundreds of law enforcement personnel to her city in response to such concerns, but later backed down after speaking with the DOJ.
"I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership," the mayor said Tuesday. "But we do not welcome dictatorship. We do not welcome authoritarianism, and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents. That is something I will not tolerate."
DOJ officials also attempted to quell fears of troops "roaming the streets," saying the officers being sent now would be taking more of a behind the scenes role.
"These agents won’t be patrolling the streets," U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison said. "They won’t replace or usurp the authority of local officers."
Operation Legend got its name from LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Kansas City late last month. A similar tragedy took place in Canton this week when 1-year-old Ace Lucas died from gunshot wounds while sleeping in his home, and Cleveland saw a sharp increase in violence over the recent Fourth of July weekend.
However, Cleveland officials say they are not currently aware of any more federal authorities coming to the city, saying:
"The City of Cleveland has not been made aware of any additional federal law enforcement officers coming to the city. The Cleveland Division of Police has in the past and will continue to partner with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime in our neighborhoods. In January of this year, the Division of Police announced the Relentless Pursuit initiative, which is designed to combat violent crimes in our neighborhoods with our federal, state and local partners."
It is unknown just how many agents the White House plans to send to Cleveland, but the numbers in other cities have ranged in the hundreds.