Some folks on social media, and some of our friends in the broadcast ranks, are a bit confused about what’s going on in Portland and what’s going on in, say, Chicago or Detroit.
There are two very different operations being conducted by the federal government in several large cities. What’s in common is that both involve folks with badges and uniforms. That’s about where it ends.
In Portland, officials in the city and the state of Oregon have been unable, or unwilling, to police their own. Protesters have not only vandalized, but tried to burn down, federal property there, including a rather large federal courthouse.
So the Trump administration, specifically the Department of Homeland Security, sent its police force to Portland to keep the arsonists at bay. No matter what Nancy Pelosi has said, this wasn’t in reaction to graffiti. Unless one considers explosive devices to be artwork.
However, as this paper reported late in the week, Operation Legend is something completely different. And completely warranted. Even if not completely viewed as welcome.
In the midst of all the fireworks in Portland lately, President Trump announced Operation Legend–named after a 4-year-old boy named LeGend Taliferro, who was shot in Kansas City. The administration wants to send federal agents to more U.S. cities–Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and others–to combat rising crime, especially violent crime.
It’s an operation that started last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. Officials have been trying to explain, over the shouting, that agents working with Operation Legend won’t be policing protesters in the streets. Rather, they will be used to beef up local police agencies working the beat.
Still, some don’t get it. Which brings up a comment frequently used this summer to describe disagreements among Americans: It’s difficult to get a person to understand something when their employment or political bent depends on their not understanding.
For example, in Chicago, dozens of officials have demanded that the mayor there reject all police help from the Trump administration. More than 60 elected officials in northern Illinois sent the mayor a letter saying in part: “President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated both his callous disregard for Black, indigenous and immigrant lives, and his increasing inclination toward fascism and authoritarianism.” Etc., etc.
The mayor of Chicago, a Democrat in good standing and frequent critic of Donald Trump, says, well, otherwise. That is, she acknowledges that Operation Legend simply adds to her city’s efforts to combat crime, focusing on gangs and gun violence:
“These agents have had offices in the city of Chicago for probably 50-plus years or longer,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told the press. “They’re always actively engaged on a variety of different issues . . . so [they’re] adding to existing infrastructure that’s already been in place.”
But while the feds and local authorities are holding joint press conferences in Detroit, and the mayor and chief of police are explaining things to the public in Cleveland, other officials fan the flames not only of fear, but ignorance.
The city council in Oakland, Calif., unanimously passed an ordinance to “keep Oakland safe from President Trump’s federal agents.” Press reports from around the country say that mayors in Philly, Seattle and Albuquerque have denounced Operation Legend. It’s like they just don’t want to understand.
Perhaps it aids them politically to reject any help from the Trump administration, even if it would take guns out of the hands of criminals, break up drug gangs, and even save lives. Which may be the worst thing we’ve said about any group of politicians in this column so far this year.
Note to Democratic mayors in Democratic big cities: Just because it’s the Trump administration doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Take the help. It’s a good bet your chiefs of police want it.