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Blunt: “American Communities Are Safer Because of Operation LeGend”

“While some people have sought to defund the police, and to disparage the police, Operation LeGend is successful because it supports the police.”

September 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the success of Operation LeGend, a Justice Department initiative that is helping local law enforcement get violent criminals off the streets in St. Louis, Kansas City, and seven other cities. Under Operation LeGend, federal law enforcement officials are working alongside local law enforcement to solve crimes, make arrests, track down fugitives, and prepare cases for trial.

By September 1st, the operation had led to the arrest of 355 people suspected of serious crimes in Kansas City, including the alleged killer of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro. More than 100 of them have been charged in federal court. In St. Louis, there were 359 arrests as of September 1st, with 123 on federal charges. Nationally, Operation LeGend has led to the arrest of more than 2,000 people, including 163 for murder.

Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:

“Mr. President, as we all know, and any American who has watched the news over the summer knows, there's been a terrible increase in crime in America's cities. Assaults, shootings, murders have been far higher this year, and my home state's not been safe from this trend. In fact, in St. Louis, Missouri, there were 55 murders in the month of July. That compares to 22 murders a year earlier in July, which we thought were way too many then.

“In Kansas City, Missouri, homicides in the first six months of this year were about 40% higher than they were last year. One of the Kansas City victims was a four-year-old boy named LeGend Taliferro. …

“So early in July, the Justice Department launched an effort in Kansas City that has become a national effort, which they called Operation LeGend, named for little LeGend Taliferro. Under Operation LeGend, federal law enforcement officers are working alongside local police to solve crimes, to make arrests, to track down fugitives, to prepare cases for trial, so criminals can be held accountable.

“Now the key phrase there is alongside - federal agents aren't going in and taking over the police department. They're going in to add assistance to the police department. On that topic, there was no immediate raid of trafficking centers or drug gangs or anything like that.

“I frankly thought the Justice Department was wrong in not announcing earlier to federal officials and local officials what they were going to do and when they were going to do it. But I think we've worked with them to see that that isn't going to continue to be the case. And, in fact, in early August, they made a similar determination to go into … St. Louis. One of the advantages of having federal officers work with the local police in these cases is that one, they bring a whole lot more intensity to the moment, with the extra help, suddenly something becomes possible that wasn't possible before. …

“By September 1 in Kansas City, the operation led to the arrest of 355 people suspected of serious crimes in Kansas City, more than 100 of those 355 people have been charged in federal court. In St. Louis, where we, I said before, the government decided to bring Operation LeGend to St. Louis, the Justice Department made that decision in early August. And in St. Louis, by September 1, there were already 359 arrests and [123] of those people arrested were looking at federal charges as well. In addition to St. Louis and Kansas City, the Department of Justice has launched Operation LeGend in seven other cities. This is not a federal overreach.

“It is not the federal government, again, taking over local law enforcement. It’s not the first step toward martial law. It's not a crackdown on peaceful protest. What it is is a cooperative effort with cities that have been suffering from increases in violent crime. Under this operation, officers have arrested, nationwide, more than 2,000 people, including 163 people for murder, and one of the people arrested, Mr. President, was the alleged killer of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro.

“The rise of violence in cities this year, and particularly the cities I'm talking about that have been benefited, I think, from Operation LeGend, has been incredibly rapid, and unbearably destructive, not to mention totally unacceptable. It's taken a toll on lives unlived, families torn apart, communities terrorized, people wondering what's going to happen when they or their children walk out the front door, or play in the backyard, or, like little LeGend, are sound asleep…”

“Nothing we do can fully heal the damage, certainly, that these victims of violent crime and their families have suffered. But we can get the justice that both the victim and people who care about them deserve. We may have a lot of disagreements in the Congress, but I hope we can agree that violent criminals belong behind bars. I hope we can all agree that all parents deserve a safe neighborhood where they can raise their children. I hope we can all agree that the police do a difficult and dangerous job and they deserve support and all the support and appreciation we can give them. 

“Not long ago, LeGend Taliferro's mother spoke about her son and the pain of losing him. She said, quote, ‘he was a ball of joy. I want his legacy to live on and I want us to continue to fight against violence, and also to get justice for my son, and others.’ That's the end of that mother's quote. But it's not the end of a life, that mother will now live without her son, or the life he didn't get to live, and there are too many lives that didn't get to be lived, too many lives lost through needless violence.

“Operation LeGend gives local law enforcement the valuable support they need to get violent criminals off the street. Again, it was named for an innocent four-year-old boy, it could have been named for any of the thousands of other victims of violent criminals in dozens of other cities this year. It could have been named for St. Louis Police Officer Tamarris Bohannon, who was killed in the line of duty last month. …

“It's a tragedy that it had to be named for anyone, and while some people have sought to defund the police, and to disparage the police, Operation LeGend is successful because it supports the police. These are some of the hardest jobs in America, second only to the families of people who care deeply about their loved one who's decided to serve in that job to protect us all.

“American communities are safer because of Operation LeGend. They will be safer as we continue to work toward greater and more effective community policing. They will be safer when people who are violent criminals are no longer walking around to perpetuate further violence. And I salute the Justice Department for their efforts, and the local departments who have reached out and taken advantage of the moment to get something done that they were not able to get done by themselves, and I yield the floor.”

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