Operation Legend ends in Memphis, faces uncertain future with Biden administration


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A federal crime-fighting technique that hit Memphis last summer has wrapped up, and with a new president, it’s future is uncertain.

It was the brainchild of President Donald Trump’s administration: crack down on crime in high-crime cities by ushering in federal agents to work side by side with police.

“A total of 40 new agents served in Memphis, new federal agents,” said Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the western district of Tennessee. “Those agents came from the FBI, ATF, the DEA.”

Memphis was one of nine cities targeted, and from August to December, the agents were on the ground, entrenched in departments, making arrests.

“We arrested 266 individuals, charged 124 with federal offenses,” Dunavant said.

The arrests were for drug crimes, firearm offenses, robberies and gang violence. Dunavant says it made a difference in public safety, even as Memphis murder numbers continued to climb.

“Without this effort, it would have been that much worse,” Dunvant said. “I honestly believe we removed violent offenders, domestic abusers and gang members and drug traffickers from the streets and by doing this. We protected the people, we prevented new crimes, new drug overdoses and new shootings and ultimately, I believe we saved lives.”

With President Trump no longer in office, his Operation Legend has come to an end.

Dunavant is not sure the Biden administration will pick it back up, but he hopes the idea behind the effort—to stop the killings short term and investigate crime organizations long term—will be front and center for the Department of Justice.

Twenty-four of the 40 agents sent to Memphis will remain here and be reassigned to federal units.

Dunavant’s position as U.S. attorney is a presidential appointment. There’s no word on what the Biden administration plans for that position.

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