US President Donald Trump announced a “surge” of federal agents to crime hotspots including Chicago on Wednesday, following an increase in violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
“I’m announcing a surge of federal law enforcement into communities plagued by violent crime,” Trump said at the White House, with Attorney General William Barr and the FBI and Department of Homeland Security directors in the audience.
The Department of Justice will “immediately surge federal law enforcement to the city of Chicago,” added the president, who has increasingly sought to make law-and-order a theme for his flagging re-election campaign.
Barr said “Operation Legend” would see some 200 agents sent to the Windy City and another 30 to Albuquerque, New Mexico after it kicked off earlier this month in Kansas City, Missouri where there are already 200 officers.
Shootings have spiked in a number of US cities this summer, with more than 60 people shot in Chicago, including 14 fatalities, over the past weekend alone, according to the department.
Trump warned Monday he could send federal officers to New York and other Democratic-led cities to protect federal buildings and sort out what he says is a collapse of law and order.
The warning came after an unusual deployment of military-garbed federal agents amid protests in Portland, Oregon, which many said smacked of authoritarianism.
The deployment announced Wednesday, however, involved federal agents who will partner with local law enforcement, not riot control forces as seen in Portland.
The mayors of six major cities - Atlanta, Washington, Seattle, Chicago, Portland and Kansas City - said in a letter to Barr and Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on Monday that uninvited deployments of federal troops violate the Constitution.
On Wednesday Trump said he wanted to “make law enforcement stronger not weaker,” adding that more officers should be hired rather than cutting police department budgets.
In mentioning police budgets, Trump was responding to calls to “defund police,” a common refrain from anti-racism protests that have sprung up across the country following the death of George Floyd, an African American, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.