Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Dunavant: Feds Don’t Need Council Permission for Operation LeGend

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 12:41 PM

click to enlarge Dunavant meets with the Memphis City Council Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. - CITY OF MEMPHIS
  • City of Memphis
  • Dunavant meets with the Memphis City Council Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

The federal government does not need the Memphis City Council’s permission to bring more law enforcement to the city.

That’s what Michael Dunavant, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, told council members Tuesday, August 18th. Dunavant was defending a new violent crime reduction effort — called Operation LeGend — that will bring 40 federal agents from a variety of agencies to Memphis. The council heard from Dunavant Tuesday as they reviewed a resolution in opposition to the operation here.

“With all due respect to the council, no one’s permission is needed to do this,” Dunavant said, noting federal law trumps local law. “We will do this.”

Operation LeGend was announced for Memphis on August 6th. It will bring 40 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security. 
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant
  • U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant

Sixteen of them will be here for 90 days and 24 of them will remain here permanently. They will work with local police to blunt what Dunavant said was a rise in violent crime this year. Some agents are already on the ground, and some have already made arrests.

Operation LeGend is not, Dunavant said, to send federal troops to occupy Memphis.

“This is not Portland,” he said during remarks to the council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
He noted the operation was planned in December 2019 well before protests began in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd.

Council member J.B. Smiley asked if the federal agent have placed surveillance devices around the city.

“I’m not aware of that, but even if I was I couldn’t discuss it with you for operational safety,” Dunavant said.

Council member Michalyn Easter-Thomas said she hoped local law enforcement agencies would seek federal grants for re-entry and rehabilitation programs as aggressively as Dunavant’s office is on suppressing violent crime.

Dunavant said he believes crime is not driven primarily by poverty but by lack of consequences, which is what he said he’ll bring to criminals here with Operation LeGend. He said calls to defund police are “reckless and dangerous” and could embolden criminals and increase violent crime.

“What good is a living wage if you’re not living?” Dunavant asked. “What good is an education if children are dying in their beds in drive-by shootings?”
click to enlarge 600px-seal_of_the_united_states_department_of_justice.svg.png

He said homicides in Memphis are up 49 percent form where they were in 2019. So far this year, 170 have been murdered here. Twenty-four of those were children. Twenty-one of those were African Americans. The murder count this year is on track to surpass the 228 murders in 2016, the year with the highest murder count in Memphis history.

“Operation LeGend will suppress violence here now,” Dunavant said. “We must stop the bleeding now. Children are dying now.”

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