Federal Agents Coming To Milwaukee ‘Differs Entirely From Operation In Portland,’ Says US Attorney Krueger

Agents Coming To Milwaukee For 90 Days Will Focus On Homicide And Violent Crime, Not Protests, Officials Say

Milwaukee skyline
erik aldrich (CC-BY-ND)

More than 25 federal agents will come to Milwaukee in an effort to address violent crime as part of the U.S. government’s Operation Legend, Matthew Krueger, U.S. attorney for Wisconsin’s Eastern District said at a press conference Wednesday.

Ten agents have already been assigned to the city, Krueger said, while others will be brought in more permanently over the next year to provide long-term assistance. They come from agencies including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service. Krueger said the operation will also bring more than $12 million in funding for state and local law enforcement partners aimed at violent crime in the city.

“Operation Legend is simply an enhancement of the existing relationships using proven law enforcement methods to reduce violent crime,” Krueger said. “You will not see federal agents amassing on the streets in Milwaukee.”

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President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he’d be sending federal agents to Milwaukee and other cities in response to local governments considering cutting police budgets after nearly two months of protests drew concerns from local officials that the new arrivals to Milwaukee would be similar to the deployment of the Federal Protective Service and Customs and Border Patrol in Portland, Oregon. There has been criticism of agents’ actions there in response to civil unrest, including pulling protesters off the street and into unmarked vans.

Krueger said law enforcement officers in Portland had an “entirely different mission” than the agents coming to Milwaukee and other cities for Operation Legend.

“Operation Legend is not aimed at local protest activity or civil disturbances,” he said. “Operation Legend is not about flooding any particular neighborhoods. It is not a patrol operation, nor is it aimed at maximizing arrests for its own sake. Rather, the work of these task forces is specifically targeted at offenders that pose a risk to our community.”

It was a point echoed by Robert Hughes, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee office.

“Operation Legend should not be confused with protest activity,” he said. “Our focus is going to be on addressing violent crime in the Milwaukee area.”

One area of concern is the murder of 16-year-old Qunyonce Louis-Moore, who was shot on June 30. Hughes said the FBI is raising the reward for information about Louis-Moore’s killer from $5,000 to $25,000.

“This is a senseless act, there’s no need for this,” Hughes said of Louis-Moore’s death. “The homicide rate (in Milwaukee) has gone up dramatically. That’s the reason why we need to focus our attention to reduce violent crime in this area.”

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said he’s been in constant communication with Krueger over the last several days to get a better sense of Operation Legend and the presence of additional agents in Milwaukee. He said he shared concerns about federal forces in Milwaukee in the wake of news out of Portland.

“We’ve seen, over the past several weeks, disturbances around the country, and the insertion of forces from the United States government that have led to a lot of chaos and concern” he said. “When it was made known that some of those authorities would be coming here to Milwaukee, it was a cause for concern, and I, like many, started wanting answers.”

Lucas said he would not have joined Krueger and Hughes at the press conference if he weren’t satisfied with Krueger’s assurances that Operation Legend will be different from federal law enforcement deployments into Portland. He also stressed that local law enforcement and its federal partners are focused on reducing the surge in homicides and violent crime.

“I have been here through the terrible days of the 90s, when we had all-time highs in MIlwaukee,” he said. “I did not come home and become sheriff to return to those days gone by … We as a community have got to put an end to this madness, or this madness will put an end to us.”

Krueger said Operation Legend and law enforcement in general is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing violence in the city.

“To ensure that Milwaukee is a safe, vibrant city for all residents, however, there also needs to be violent crime prevention efforts, as well as efforts to make housing, quality schools, quality jobs available to Milwaukee’s residents, including those returning from incarceration,” he said.

Following the announcement last week that federal agents were coming to Milwaukee, several local and state leaders expressed concern and opposition, including Gov. Tony Evers. In a letter to the president, Evers expressed frustration that local officials weren’t consulted about the decision to send agents and worried that their presence could make “situations more volatile and dangerous.”