Federal Officials Seek To Answer Concerns About Operation Legend

Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio
Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, describes Operation Legend as a typical federal partnership. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]

Updated: 1:13 p.m., Wednesday, July 29, 2020

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman on Wednesday morning attempted to clarify what the federal violent crime reduction initiative Operation Legend will mean for Cleveland, saying the influx of federal agents to protect residents and prevent gun violence will be smaller than the operation’s presence in Chicago and Kansas City.

"Cleveland is going to see a much more modest number of federal investigators, approximately 25, and they are going to be drawn from the ATF, the DEA, FBI, and ultimately we hope, the U.S Marshals Service,” he said.

At least six Drug Enforcement Administration personnel, 10 additional Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and seven FBI personnel will be assigned to Cleveland, Herdman said, along with the potential to add more U.S. Marshals.

Federal officials said all law enforcement operations will be done in partnership with Cleveland Police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“It’s not an introduction of federal riot police,” Herdman said. “It is not an introduction of federal uniformed personnel. It is not an introduction of federal agents to protect federal property.”

Herdman said the focus of Operation Legend is on long-term investigations, to help reduce crime in Cleveland – a continuing effort of Operation Relentless Pursuit, which ran from December 2019 to April 2020 but was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first phase of Operation Relentless Pursuit resulted in the arrest of 344 violent fugitives, according to Brian Fitzgibbon, a commander with the U.S. Marshals.

In 2018, the task force made 96 arrests, compared to 187 in 2019 before Operation Relentless Pursuit Fitzgibbon said. The operation also resulted in the seizure of 31 illegal guns, compared to six in 2019 and three in 2018.

Herdman said law enforcement feels the urgency to implement Operation Legend now.

“As of the latest data, Cleveland's homicides are up over 13 percent from where they were in 2019 and even more alarming, our city's felonious assaults by a firearm, otherwise known as non-fatal shootings, are up over 35 percent from where they were a year ago,” Herdman said.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is welcoming the help.

“Data shows, our statistics show and if you're out on the street, you'll know, violent crimes are up,” Jackson said. “Particularly violent crimes with guns, and we do need the assistance of our federal partners in order to help us bring that under control.”

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams emphasized that local officials would never bring in anyone to harm the citizens of Cleveland and repeatedly said to not believe the hype of people who live outside the city.

“There are folks out there that want to spew hate, that want to spew dissention, that want anarchy and chaos here in our country and definitely here in our city,” Williams said. “If they don’t live in your neighborhood, if they don’t experience what you experience day in and day out, then question their motives on what they’re putting out there. The people that live in this city know what’s going on. They understand the help that’s needed to get this thing under control.”

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