MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County District Attorney wants to clear the air that the federal agents are coming to the city to deal with violent crime, and not protests. However, if plans take a turn, he said any unlawful acts by federal investigators won’t be tolerated.
Last week, the White House announced federal agents were headed to Milwaukee and Chicago. It drew instant backlash from city leaders based on what’s taking place in Portland, OR. Even the Milwaukee Police Department released a statement saying they were “declining” any federal law enforcement assistance.
In hopes of getting some answers, the Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety and Health Committee held a special meeting Monday morning, with DA John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief of Staff Nicholas DeSiato in attendance.
“Why our name and our city got included in that conversation is at this point beyond us,” DeSiato said.
“I really don’t trust that the administration is being forthcoming and you know having this genuine heart to want to come in all of a sudden,” Alderwoman Chantia Lewis of District 9, said.
Chisholm said the announcement rightfully caused concerns and confusion, especially based on the timing with the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
He said if what he’s seeing in Portland happens here, his office will prosecute.
“Kidnapping, false imprisonment, unlawful assault, those are simply crimes no matter who commits them, whether it’s a federal agent or it’s a citizen you can’t do that, not in the United States, and it won’t be tolerated here,” Chisholm said.
Chisholm told council members the deployment isn’t new, and that federal agents are already in Milwaukee as a part of ‘Operation Legend,’ a U.S. Department of Justice initiative which started last fall to curb violent crime in the city, specifically relating to firearms. He said the plan was to beef it up and send more agents around March, but the pandemic delayed it.
Chisholm wants to be clear, the agents in Portland are from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Protective Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which he said is an important distinction.
“Those are not the assets that I have been told will be deployed to Milwaukee,” Chisholm said while also urging all to remain vigilant and prepared if the plan changes.
Milwaukee has already had about 95 homicides this year, numbers we haven’t seen since the 1990s. Again, Chisholm said federal agents were deployed to Milwaukee prior to that spike.
Chisholm said he won’t reject resources that could potentially help reduce the violence in the city.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin is expected to reveal specifics on the number of additional agents coming to Milwaukee on Wednesday.