“I learned about Operation Legend from actually someone on Twitter who had notified me that it was occurring,” the Democratic mayor said in an interview Thursday. “Then I looked at a White House press briefing that had announced that it was, I guess, already in the works.”
During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said 200 federal agents were sent to Kansas City as part of the program — named after LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy killed last month in Kansas City. LeGend’s death was the 95th homicide this year in the city.
“These are ‘street’ agents and investigators who will be working to solve murders and take down violent gangs,” Barr said.
“I did not directly request the support,” Lucas told NPR. “I would have liked to know more about what the operation looks like.”
Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., will also see federal deployments in the coming days as part of Trump’s plan to fight violent crime in U.S. cities.
While Lucas said he welcomed federal cooperation in solving “some of the awful gun crimes” in the city, he said he did not want the operation to become a replay of the ongoing unrest in Portland, Ore., where federal agents have been clashing with protesters demonstrating over racial injustice and police brutality.
“We don’t want some broader mission creep to other broad-based policing activities,” Lucas said.
Lucas spoke with NPR’s Morning Edition about the confusion surrounding the new operation and how it is — and is not — helping the city fight crime.
On what federal investigators have accomplished
I believe on Monday our local United States attorney’s office, so the branch of the DOJ that’s here, announced the first arrest of a suspect who was charged, I think, with a gun crime relating to drug possession. So that is, that’s the one thing that thus far I know about. I look forward to knowing more about this over time.
On the need for federal assistance
The irony of it is that it was actually done by a suburban police department in a suburb. So I would imagine that a local law enforcement agency could, and I’m not saying that that person should perhaps still be on the streets, but it does seem like some of the concern in mission creep that we might be having.
What I have been told about this program was that this is the sort of thing that we’re using to really solve violent crimes, murders, nonfatal shootings. And that’s what we would be interested in. Other broad-based policing activities, we’re not as much.
And to give you a little more background, I had my first personal conversation, I believe the U.S. attorney reached out to my staff before their announcement, but I had my first conversation after the White House press briefing a little while back where that was what was told to me would occur.
I hope that it sticks to that, and to the extent it doesn’t, it would be regrettable, but I also fear the fact that this is a campaign season, election-type tactic, and I’m not sure that’s for the better.