Operation LeGend is a federal law enforcement initiative happening in cities from Albuquerque to Baltimore. The namesake is LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old Kansas City boy killed on June 29 by gunshots fired into the apartment where he was sleeping. His alleged killer, Ryson Ellis, was arrested in mid-August.
Mayor Quinton Lucas was elected last year after a campaign that emphasized his plan to lower the city’s violent crime rate. This year, the already-high murder rate is up again. A few days after the shooting of Taliferro, Lucas sent a letter to Missouri Governor Mike Parson saying the city was “at a crisis point” and asking for state help. Parsons passed the letter to the feds, who announced they would send a surge of officers into the city.
Tim Garrison is the top federal prosecutor for the Western District of Missouri. Garrison has stood with Lucas and declared forcefully that the officers surging into the area will be solely focused on violent crime. “This is not Portland,” Garrison said. “This has nothing to do with anybody’s exercise of their rights to protest. We are simply here to address the unprecedented level of violence.”
Portland, Oregon, has been the scene of the most combustible standoffs between federal agents and citizens. Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, controls the city’s police department and oversaw weeks of escalating tensions. Wheeler has been hammered for ineffective leadership by both the right and left.“I apologize to those nonviolent demonstrators who were subjected to the use of [chemical weapons],” Wheeler said during a news conference. “It should never have happened. I take personal responsibility for it and I’m sorry.”
While Lucas and Garrison have sought to diffuse tensions locally, Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith has stepped into the fray. Smith tied the city’s spate of shootings to Black Lives Matter protests. He went on Fox News to paint a scary picture of the city. The Kansas City Star has called for his removal. “The chief is a throwback to another time,” the paper said. “He’s an old-school cop who has shown no sign of understanding that the old school is no longer in session.”
Kansas City activists have expressed concern over Operation LeGend. On July 17, hundreds of protestors gathered outside of police headquarters to protest the operation. The group Black Rainbow proposed that the money spent on this operation could instead be used to fund education, hospitals and crime prevention. Organizer Ray Billis called for local officials, including Mayor Lucas, to reject any offers of federal help.
One staunch defender of Operation LeGend is Taliferro’s mother, Charron Powell. She has told protestors that the operation is solely meant to investigate unsolved murders in the city and encouraged them to reevaluate their perspectives.
Emanuel Cleaver II
Although Missouri Congressman Cleaver doesn’t seem to have a problem with federal agents helping to slow violent crime, he has spoken out on the lack of communication from the administration. Congressman Cleaver told the Star that Operation LeGend may be “the best plan that’s ever been conceived if it’s real and serious and genuinely designed to be of help to Kansas City,” but that “there has to be some community work before that happens because, in the absence of communication, you open the door for imagination.”