President Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that under Operation Legend — an initiative launched in Kansas City, Missouri earlier this month — dozens of federal officers will soon come to Albuquerque, as well as Chicago. Reports emerged Tuesday that this move by Trump was likely, as reported in the Daily Lobo.
“Under Operation Legend we will soon send federal law enforcement to other cities that need help,” Trump said. “Other cities need help, they need it badly. They should call, they should want it. They’re too proud or they’re too political to do that. One of them is Albuquerque, New Mexico.”
In talking about the recent “surge” of crime in cities across the country, Trump addressed calls to defund the police and made racist remarks about undocumented immigrants, calling them “illegal aliens.”
“We will never defund the police. We will hire more great police,” Trump said. “We want to make law enforcement stronger, not weaker. What cities are doing is absolute insanity. Many of the same politicians who want to slash resources for law enforcement have also declared that their cities are sanctuaries for criminal, illegal aliens.”
Hours after Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, both Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier released statements opposing the presence of federal forces in Albuquerque.
Keller prefaced his statement by saying, “Our hearts are with Mr. Vigil, his family and every family who has been victim to gun violence—a decade-old problem that remains our top priority.”
The husband of murder victim Jacqueline Vigil, who was shot and killed last year, spoke at the press conference. No arrests have been made in Vigil’s case.
Keller went on to say that Trump is “ready to incite violence in Democratic cities as a re-election strategy built on gaslighting immigrants and people of color.”
“We always welcome partnerships in constitutional crime fighting that are in step with our community, but we won’t sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send secret police to Albuquerque,” Keller said. “Operation Legend is not real crime fighting; it’s politics standing in the way of police work and makes us less safe.”
Keller’s statement comes days after Albuquerque police officers unevenly enforced the city’s firearms ban and pepper sprayed Black Lives Matter protesters, two incidents that the mayor did not comment on.
And despite Trump’s rhetoric about Democratic leaders wanting to defund law enforcement, Keller has been clear that he favors police reform and does not plan to divert any funding from the Albuquerque Police Department.
On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said 35 federal agents from multiple agencies will be sent to Albuquerque.
It’s unclear what exact purpose those agents will serve. A Department of Justice (DOJ) press release states these agents will “work closely with the Albuquerque Police Department and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, along with other local partners, through pre-existing task forces directed at combating violent crimes.”
Through federal grants, the DOJ will give over $1.5 million to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department to hire five deputies and $9.74 million to the Albuquerque Police Department to hire 40 officers.
Barr and Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf both said a distinction must be made between Operation Legend and what’s happening in Portland.
Federal officers — who Trump recently praised, saying they’ve done a “great job” — have been detaining and brutalizing Portland protesters for at least a week, according to a New York Times report. Local leaders including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler have insisted these officers leave the city, demands which Trump has firmly refused.
Operation Legend, meanwhile, was first introduced in Kansas City on July 8 under the guise of stopping violent crime.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement shortly after Trump’s announcement saying her office would be willing to work with federal agencies depending on the approach they take.
“If the Trump administration sincerely wishes to assist local law enforcement in our state in their regular community-policing activities, in data-driven crime-fighting initiatives, in protecting the public safety and welfare of New Mexicans, we would welcome the conversation,” the statement reads.
Lujan Grisham also said they would take legal action against the Trump administration if they deemed it necessary, and that her administration will be monitoring for civil rights violations as federal officers occupy the state.
“If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary and unaccountable military-style ‘crackdowns,’ they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico,” the statement reads.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico John C. Anderson were present at the press conference. U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and the ACLU of New Mexico have called for Gonzales’ resignation.
Gonzales has been criticized in the past for refusing to make his deputies wear body cameras.
The Daily Lobo submitted requests to obtain records related to Operation Legend and Operation Relentless Pursuit — an initiative launched in December of last year — from Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque. Those requests have not been fulfilled as of the publication of this article.
This is a developing story.
Bella Davis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bladvs