Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas provided an update on Operation Legend Thursday, joined by the parents and grandparents of 4-year old LeGend Taliferro, for which the operation is named, who was shot and killed in his sleep on June 29 near 63rd and Paseo in Kansas City.
On July 8, Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of Operation Legend, a “sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials” to fight the surge of violent crime in Kansas City.
“This operation is not tanks in the streets, this operation is not a substitute patrol force,” Lucas said. “This operation is not over-enforcement from federal law enforcement. This is not an operation where anyone is coming to take over the work that either the police department does here locally or other authorities or agencies do.”
Lucas said the operation is one of support for victims of violent crimes in Kansas City. The city has had 101 homicides so far this year.
Over 100 Department of Justice agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshal Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will be sent to Kansas City in the coming weeks to work alongside state and local agencies.
According to the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD), long-standing relationships with these agencies already exist, and they work in conjunction with them on a regular basis.
“Those strong relationships, along with the 40% increase in homicides over last year, led to Kansas City being the first city chosen for Operation Legend,” a press release from KCPD said.
The department said federal agents will not patrol the streets of Kansas City or serve as any kind of occupying force. The agents will not be uniformed, but rather they will work with KCPD detectives to identify, arrest and prosecute violent offenders.
Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, will contribute additional resources from his office to handle an anticipated increase in prosecutions.
“An unprecedented spike in violent crime deserves an unprecedented response from government authorities, and I can’t control everything that’s done in the name of law enforcement and criminal justice, but while I’m privileged to hold the position of United States Attorney, I’m going to do everything I can to bring the peace and stability that the citizens of Kansas City deserve,” Garrison said. “The rule of law matters, and that’s what this operation is about because frankly, we have pockets of Kansas City where the rule of law does not hold sway.”
This operation follows weeks of protests over police brutality, both in Kansas City and nationwide, with one of protesters’ concerns being a militarized police force. Garrison said this operation is not about suppressing protests, and he will continue to support the exercise of constitutional rights.
Lucas sent a letter to Missouri Governor Mike Parsons earlier this month requesting a special session of the General Assembly to address violent crime. The homicide numbers had reached 96 at the time, and two on-duty officers had been shot the day before.
“We are at a crisis point in Kansas City and we need state legislative action on several items we have previously discussed to address our problem,” Lucas wrote.
Lucas called for senators and representatives to take “specific action” in Jefferson City on violent crime by voting on legislation to enhance witness protection funding in Missouri and address how more tools can be provided to law enforcement and prosecutors to interrupt conspiracies to commit murder and other violent acts, particularly offenses committed by felons using deadly weapons.
Parsons sent the letter to the White House, where White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany read parts of it in a July 8 press briefing. McEnany said agencies would be “on the ground” in Kansas City within the next 10 days.
On Wednesday, July 15, Parsons called a special session of the General Assembly to begin Monday, July 27, to address violent crime in Missouri. The special session will focus on amending state statutes related to violent crime, including police and public safety residency requirements for St. Louis, juvenile certification, witness statement admissibility, a witness protection fund, endangering the welfare of a child and the unlawful transfer of weapons.
After learning of Operation Legend, Lucas said he would remain committed to working on all solutions to make Kansas City safer and finding peace for all those impacted by violent crime.
“What this is about is how we can find justice,” Lucas said. “The work that’s been done and will be done in this operation, the types of things that are enhanced investigative tools to help us solve these crimes, to help us find murderers of small children, to help us find a way that we can get past some of the violent crime concerns here in Kansas City.”
Lucas said his office is working with the Department of Justice to obtain grants for mental health treatment, conflict resolution, de escalation, and other solutions.
“I’m challenging my community to step up and speak out,” said Founder of KC Mothers in Charge Rosilyn Temple. “Let’s do something that we have never done. Let’s embrace this operation and embrace more law-enforcement coming in to help our Police Department. Because they need help.”