The Trump administration expanded its deployment of federal law enforcement officers to two additional cities Thursday as part of its controversial anti-crime effort.
The Justice Department announced that it is surging 40 officers to Memphis, Tennessee, and 50 more to St. Louis during the next several weeks, marking a new federal presence in eight U.S. cities where local authorities are grappling with worsening violence.
Last month, Attorney General William Barr launched the effort, known as Operation Legend, despite the widespread concerns for the tactics used by federal officers dispatched to Portland, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and other cities to quell protests sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Barr has maintained that the additional officers will only assist in combating local violence and will not take part in crowd control duties that have drawn federal agents into clashes with street protesters. Since last month, Barr has dispatched dozens of officers to Kansas City, Chicago, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee as part of Operation Legend, a program named for a young Kansas City murder victim.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said she supports the assistance, citing "an unprecedented surge" in violent crimes in the city. The police department, facing a staffing shortage, responded to 85 homicides in June and July, she said.
"At a time when our police department is facing a serious shortage of approximately 140 officers, we need additional resources to help us investigate violent crimes, make arrests, and deter additional violent offenses across the city," the mayor said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, meanwhile said local officials will support the federal operation as long as federal agents remain focused on violent crime enforcement.
Strickland said the assistance "is a violent crime reduction effort, with additional resources being provided to federal, state and local law enforcement to assist with traditional crime-fighting directed at gang violence, narcotics-related shootings and illegal firearms."
"That's what it is," he said. "What it is not is an introduction of federal riot police, uniformed personnel, or other federal agents to protect federal property, and is not intended to introduce any additional (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) resources to enforce immigration offenses."
The federal forces in Portland and D.C. included large contingents of immigration enforcement authorities drawn from the Department of Homeland Security. Operation Legend officers are being largely dispatched from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Feds expand officer deployments to Memphis, St. Louis