News & Politics

Federal Officers Always Operate in America's Cities, So Just Calm Down

AP Photo/Noah Berger

On Monday, President Trump announced he would be sending federal law enforcement officers to several American cities that seem unable to deal with a sharp uptick in violence since the beginning of protests in wake of the death of George Floyd. He specifically cited New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, and Oakland, California.

Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) officers from the Department of Homeland Security were sent to Portland, Ore., over the weekend after repeated attacks on federal buildings within the city. This followed nearly 50 days of non-stop riots and property destruction that had hijacked anything that could be called a “peaceful protest”.

Despite the loud objections of Portland’s Mayor, Ted Wheeler, the federal officers have remained in the city to protect federal property. Wheeler has been notoriously soft on antifa and other groups on the radical left since early 2016. The Portland police are so fed up they routinely tweet out statements that contradict the story being told by the mayor.

Federal officials protecting federal property is not against the law, as Wheeler has asserted. Nor is arresting people who attempt to vandalize federal property or hurt federal officers. The officers did not fail to identify themselves and were wearing proper identification, according to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolfe.

Now, of course, the leaders in New York, Chicago, and other cities are using inaccurate and inflammatory media reports to object to federal officers being deployed in their cities. Their more obvious objection is to President Trump. The funniest part of this is that they act as if federal law enforcement agencies do not operate within their jurisdictions all the time.

Federal law enforcement agencies investigate and enforce federal laws. The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, ICE, and the Secret Service are just a few of the agencies that have local offices and local officers. Attorney General Bill Barr has already stated that the Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been activated to investigate crimes related to the riots nationwide. Over 100 arrests have been made.

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While these task forces operate in conjunction with state and local law enforcement, this is not always the case. Federal officers can conduct investigations and make arrests related to violations of federal law independently.

This may be useful in places like New York City, where shootings have risen precipitously in the last few weeks. The city disbanded the precinct anti-crime units, which were responsible for most gun-related arrests. If federal officers can enforce federal gun laws in the areas where the violence is taking place, lives will be saved.

Most of the victims in New York are black. Some have been young children. If Mayor de Blasio really thought black lives mattered, he would welcome assistance from the federal agencies. Local leaders are looking for increased enforcement. Instead, he is vowing to resist federal intervention in his city. One has to wonder how many more senseless deaths will result.

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The Chicago Tribune is reporting that federal agents will be there to support local police:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for example, is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to the city this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing — and what their limits would be — had not been made public.

DHS in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the Department of Justice indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.

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Obviously, this is the ideal model. It would be difficult to believe beleaguered police departments in these urban areas would not want help and collaboration. These cities have seen nearly constant violence and unrest since the protests began. Often they get little, if any, support from the virtue-signaling mayors who bend to the will of the radical mobs.

Trump should be cautious. Where possible, federal agents should absolutely work with local law enforcement to coordinate and prioritize efforts. Where local leaders will not allow this, they should focus on federal property and enforcing federal laws when appropriate.

It would be a huge mistake to provide an outsized federal response. In fact, this is what these agitators are looking for. Another invigorating event they can use to increase their influence and power. President Trump needs to take decisive, but smart action to keep law-abiding citizens in these cities safe if their mayors refuse to do so.

At the same time, the response must be restrained enough not to embolden the mob. This is a delicate balance, but it is critical to restoring order in these chaotic jurisdictions.