I listened to Frank Jackson’s press conference today so you didn’t have to! Here’s the link to my semi-live Twitter stream on the subject.
What I think they’re saying is:
“Operation Legend” is just the new name for “Operation Relentless Pursuit,” at least as it affects Cleveland. That honestly doesn’t sound very likely to be true.
There are definitely no federal “troops” coming to Cleveland. This sounds fishy because nobody was talking about “troops” to begin with, so what is the dodge here?
This part is ambiguous, but it seems like they’re saying that there are federal law enforcement people coming to Cleveland eventually as part of “Operation Legend” but they are the exact same people that were supposed to be coming as part of “Operation Relentless Pursuit,” but were delayed because of pandemic concerns. It was all stated in a confusing way though.
Further—again according to F. Jackson and C. Williams—there’s no unidentified cops pulling people off the street into unmarked rental vans. They kept saying these federal people are only doing “investigation” and “intel” work.
But they couldn’t keep their story straight about the intent of this “investigation and intel.” Half the time it was about ordinary street crime, and half the time they were saying these people are coming to do “intel” rather than arresting protesters—which is a weird backhanded way to admit they’re doing “intel” on protesters, right? Like this is seriously hard to parse.
The ambiguity pisses me off. Being able to express yourself clearly is a fundamental skill required of public leadership. If I can’t figure out what the hell Frank is trying to say, that’s on Frank.
Also, it’s well known that Williams recently undermined the consent decree by lying out his ass about the events of 5/30 to justify the use of excessive force, so he has no credibility. I don’t take his words at face value.
From federal officals
Here’s what Trump, Barr, and Wolf had to say about “Operation LeGend” on Wednesday. While it’s hard to pin down what Frank is saying up above, the comments of Attorney General Bob Barr do seem to align with the idea that this effort is not about the (sigh) “riots and mob violence” that might accompany political protest.
This is a different kind of operation, obviously, than the tactical teams we use to defend against riots and mob violence. And we’re going to continue to confront mob violence, but the operations we’re discussing today are very different. They are classic crime fighting.
Now I don’t take Bob Barr’s words at face value either, but at least he’s telling a story that’s intelligible and consistent.
More from the US Attorney
On Wednesday, 29 July, US Attorney Justin Herdman led a press conference that was way more coherent than the first one. Some of the key points:
- We’re talking about 25 or so federal agents from US Marshalls, FBI, DEA, maybe some other agencies.
- They’re on “long term criminal investigative efforts.”
- They will be “permanently assigned” to local task forces.
- Local agencies include Cleveland Police, Ohio Highway Patrol, and Ohio Investigative Unit.
Herdman went on to say that the urgency of Operation Legend is because, his words, “This is the right time to do this.” He cited a batch of year-over-year crime statistics that all seemed to be trending up, including a 35% increase in non-fatal shootings.
Without saying it super directly, Herdman downplayed the idea that Operation Legend has anything at all to do with putting down protests or riots in Cleveland. It’s a “violent fugitive apprehension effort,” he said. “These are investigators, the federal equivalent of street cops.”
The last thing I got before the video cut out was Herdman’s enumeration of the supplying agencies: 10 from ATF, 6 from DEA, 7 from FBI, possibly getting some Deputy US Marshalls, 2-5 of them.
Long story short from the Herdman press conference: either Herdman is shamelessly and egregiously lying, or Operation Legend is a couple dozen federal agents who will be resources for local law enforcement. I’m not sure that’s great either—there are reasons we separate state and federal law enforcement.
One last thing though: Lying Calvin Williams had a moment in the Herdman press conference, which he used to blame outside agitators for any anger or resistance to Operation Legend. He went down the whole “there are folks who want to spew hate, there are folks who want to spew dissension, they don’t live where you live, they don’t experience what you experience” path.
It’s a disgusting accusation. People don’t believe cops because cops lie. People don’t believe Frank because we can’t figure out what the hell he’s saying. And people don’t believe Calvin because he clearly undermined the consent decree by lying to justify an excessive use of force, in front of everyone.