WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he will send federal agents to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help combat rising crime, expanding the administration's intervention into local enforcement as he runs for re-election under a "law-and-order" mantle.
Using the same language he has employed to describe illegal immigration, Trump painted Democrat-led cities as out of control, citing the "radical left," which he blamed for rising violence in some cities, even though criminal justice experts say it defies easy explanation.
"In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police department," Trump said at a White House event, blaming the movement for "a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence."
"This bloodshed must end," he said. "This bloodshed will end."
With less than four months until Election Day, Trump has been warning violence will worsen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden is elected in November and Democrats have a chance to make the police reforms they have endorsed after the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests demanding racial justice.
Crime began surging in some cities like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia when stay-at-home orders lifted. Criminal justice experts seeking answers have pointed to the unprecedented moment: a pandemic that has killed more than 140,000 Americans, historic unemployment, a mass reckoning over race and police brutality, intense stress and even the weather. Compared with other years, crime in 2020 is down overall.
The plan Trump announced Wednesday expands an existing program that sent hundreds of federal agents to Kansas City, Missouri, after a 4-year-old boy's shooting death to help quell a record rise in violence. Sending federal agents to help localities is not uncommon; Attorney General William Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities with spiking violence. But this effort will include at least 100 Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations, in addition to personnel under the Justice Department umbrella.
DHS officers have already been dispatched to Portland, Oregon, and other localities to protect federal property and monuments as Trump has lambasted efforts by protesters to knock down Confederate statutes.
Local authorities there have complained agents have exacerbated tensions on the streets, while residents have accused the government of violating their constitutional rights. Indeed, civil unrest escalated after federal agents were accused of whisking people away in unmarked cars without probable cause.
In Chicago, Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who had initially criticized the news, said the U.S. attorney's office will supervise the additional agents joining existing federal law enforcement offices.
"If those agents are here to actually work in partnership on support of gun violence and violent cases, plugging into existing infrastructure of federal agents, not trying to play police in our streets, then that's something different," she said, while also accusing the president of trying to distract from scrutiny of the federal response to the pandemic.
In New Mexico, Democratic elected officials had cautioned Trump against sending in federal agents, with U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich calling on Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales to resign for attending the White House event.
"Instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President's stormtroopers into Albuquerque," Heinrich said in a statement.