After a flurry of concern, skepticism, and press releases, the supposed truth of a “surge” of federal agents headed to Milwaukee has finally emerged.
“You will not see federal agents amassing on the streets of Milwaukee,” Matthew Krueger, U.S. attorney for Wisconsin’s Eastern District, said at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Joined by Sheriff Earnell Lucas, members of the Milwaukee Police Department, and other officials, Krueger explained that the eventual deployment of 30 investigative agents in Milwaukee is “simply an enhancement of the existing relationships using proven law enforcement methods to reduce violent crime.” Ten agents are already in the city, with another 15-20 scheduled to arrive this year and remain in permanent positions.
The agents will be from departments like the FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“No personnel from the Department of Homeland Security will participate in Operation Legend,” Krueger said.
The press conference addressed concerns and confusion surrounding the Trump administration’s sudden announcement that federal troops would be deployed to “Democrat-run cities” like Milwaukee. Last week, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “you’ll see something rolled out this week as we start to go in and make sure the communities, whether it’s Chicago, or Portland, or Milwaukee, or someplace across the heartland of the country. We need to make sure that our communities are safe.”
Many Milwaukee groups and officials—including the MPD, the ACLU, and Mayor Tom Barrett—expressed concern or outright hostility at the vague plan, which some likened to the events occurring in Portland. In truth, however, the plan to bring federal agents to Milwaukee is part of a pre-existing Department of Justice operation called Operation Relentless Pursuit, first announced in 2019 and since rebranded as Operation Legend.
“Operation Legend is not aimed at local protest activity or civil disturbances,” Krueger said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Operation Legend is not about flooding any particular neighborhoods. It is not a patrol operation, nor is it aimed at maximizing arrests for their own sake. Rather, the work of these task forces is specifically targeted at offenders that pose a risk to our community. A relatively small number of individuals cause most of the violence in Milwaukee. Those individuals are the focus of Operation Legend.”
Krueger said the operation will also provide state and local enforcement partners with $12 million in funding. He ultimately described Operation Legend as “a good thing for Milwaukee.”
Earlier this week, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm also explained the situation, yet suggested residents remain “skeptical and vigilant.”
“Like you, I had deep concerns about two weeks ago with events unfolding in Portland,” Chisholm said. “During that time, the White House had sort of casually mentioned that they were also sending federal agents to Milwaukee and to Chicago. This rightfully caused a lot of concerns. It caused me particular concern, because I also knew that in the context of a pre-existing relationship with federal authorities—those coming from the Department of Justice—as well as the DNC being prepared for and additional elements of federal government—particularly from the Secret Service coming to Milwaukee—I knew the potential for confusion and deep concern was there. And I shared it, and I continue to share your concerns, because they are totally legitimate concerns.”
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