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Emma E. Cooke

Loras College
Federal Marshals have served the United States since 1789. It is the enforcement branch

of the federal court, involved in a vast majority of every federal law enforcement task. There are

about 3500 deputy US Marshals and criminal investigators that make up the agency. The role of

the USMS as a federal law enforcement agency is to, “Protect, defend, and enforce the American

justice system” (Office of Public Affairs USMS, 2018).

The USMS enforces the laws of the federal government through proactive and reactive

involvement in federal court hearings, guarding of judges and other courtroom employees, as

well as catching fugitives, ensuring safe transport of prisoners from local/state detention

facilities, executing federal warrants/ federal court orders, seizing assets that were obtained

through illegal activities (Office of Public Affairs USMS, 2018). One of the things that people

don’t realize about the USMS is that they assure safe protection for government witnesses and

their families in the witness protection program.

As a federal law enforcement entity, the USMS has the broadest arrest authority. With

this, local agencies often call upon the feds to come assist them in capturing violent fugitives in

their communities and the power of their arrest authority. On average, the USMS arrest 336

fugitives everyday across the country/abroad. The U.S. Marshal’s put together a program called,

“15 most Wanted” which allows local and state law enforcement to assist federal law

enforcement on being on the lookout for their fugitives in their community. This program

extends into the public sector as it is public information blasted on federal law enforcement’s

social media, websites and posted throughout buildings. I have seen this first hand at the Dirksen

Federal building in two different locations. The first location is when you exit the elevator to

walk into the US Marshals office, there is a board of the 15 most wanted right outside. The other

one is inside the processing room where inmates get screened, finger printed, frisked, and are
asked a series of questions. When the prisoners are being asked questions, the 15 most wanted is

behind the deputy asking the questions since the most wanted people are most likely going to be

recognized by the prisoners being processed. I thought this was so clever because I was

observing an intake when a prisoner was staring at the board and thought he recognized one of

the faces on the board.

One of the unique jobs available in the USMS is being a task force officer. Task force

officers are a culmination of state and local law enforcement officers who receive special details

with the US Marshals. This task force in essence is a culmination of local, state and federal

agents with the goal of apprehending violent and dangerous fugitives across the world.

I got the opportunity to go to the Great Lakes Task Force in Chicago, Illinois and be a

role player in shoot/not shoot scenarios. It was an eye opening experience because there was

federal law enforcement such as S.W.A.T, Chicago Police Department (CPD) as well as Chicago

Police Department Fugitive Task force (joint Marshal Operations). One of the advantages of

being on the Fugitive Task force as a local police officer is the ability to exercise USMS

authorities, such as the abilities to cross jurisdictional lines. It was interesting to see how

everyone interacted with each other and how different policy can be depending on the


In one scenario, I was the suicide shooter with a gun pointed to my head. CPD has a

policy to back out of the house and call S.W.A.T for a negotiator and back up to arrive before

trying to apprehend the subject. The fugitive task force has a policy to shoot the suicidal person

if they have a gun to their hand and have verbally declared threats to oneself. The reasoning

behind this is that studies have been done in which the suicidal person with the gun to their

temple has an advantage to police officers because the reaction time to lower the gun from their
temple to shoot an officer is quicker than an officer with their gun out in front of them. So, each

“team” of officers entering the fake home had a different strategy that followed their protocol.

The Loras alum instructor stated that CPD should sue their agency for this policy as it endangers

themselves going into a residence and not being allowed to use lethal force against a threat.

Another task outlined in the duties of being a Deputy US Marshal is judicial security.

The USMS is tasked with protecting the judicial process which includes judges,

witnesses, jurors, visitors, prisoners and other susceptible people. The USMS is in charge of the

daily operation and management of security services performed by over 5200 court security

officers within 94 US District courts and 12 circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals (Office of

Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). In 2018, the United States Marshals protected approximately

2,575 judges. Court security officers, which are separate from deputy US Marshals serve as the

first line of defense against acts that would put the judicial process at risk. Judicial security is not

only important for the judicial process but also the safe keeping of the prisoners. In 2017, these

officers responded to over 2,847 threats and inappropriate communications against protected

members (Office of Public Affairs, 2018).

The USMS is in charge of protecting the federal judicial process by looking over all

detention management for individuals that are remanded into federal custody. The Marshals

provide safe keeping for prisoners while they are awaiting trial which includes medical

treatment, transportation, housing, and humane conditions while in custody. Individuals that are

arrested by the state on federal charges are then brought to a detention facility and then remanded

into federal custody until their court appearance for that day. After they appear before a judge,

they are released back into the state’s custody. They can be tried on local and federal charges for

their alleged crime one committed.

Individuals arrested and being tried on federal offenses are brought before a U.S.

magistrate or U.S. District Court judge for their initial appearance. The court then determines

whether prisoners are to be released on bond or remanded to the custody of the Marshals to await

trial (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). Due to the nature and security of procedures,

I can’t talk in great detail about the procedure for processing a remand, but in summary it means

that the prisoner is in federal custody awaiting trial.

On average, about 70% of those arrested by federal agencies are detained at some point in

the process (Office of Public Affairs, 2018). In 2017, 57,658 of the 84,048 total fugitives

arrested by the U.S. Marshal Service came from state and local fugitives (Office of Public

Affairs, 2018). This stresses the importance of having a relationship with the local agencies in

the Marshals district because of the aid and assistance they can provide to the USMS. The local

police departments can be a great asset because they know their town better than the US Marshal

so they can alert them to the best routes, hang out spots and businesses in the area that can lead

to an arrest.

One of the interesting things of the US Marshals is that they don’t own or operate any

detention facilities. Instead, they partner with local and state agencies to house the prisoners for

them until their court date. The USMS also detains prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison

facilities and privately owned facilities.

While working in the lockup sector, I have seen IDOC (Illinois Department of

Corrections), federal agencies, and local agencies all bring in prisoners that have been remanded

into federal custody or are awaiting trial. All of the officers involved know each other well even

though they don’t belong to the same agency or in the same county. Going into the internship, I

figured there would be some sort of competitive vibe or animosity towards other agencies but
really I found it to be the opposite. All agencies work together because they know it’ll make their

job easier and the information that can be shared between agencies speeds up the process

immensely. Another component of prisoner operations is prisoner transportation.

Prisoner transportation takes place for many different reasons such as to testify in trial,

serve a sentence at a facility or transfer between facilities. Prisoners can also be moved for

pretrial hearings, competency, medical studies or observations. From my experience, all of these

are fairly common with the exception of competency hearings. Usually those are far and few

between because of the threshold needed for that to even be considered and then moved for it.

However, even with my short time at the USMS I have observed prisoners being moved for

competency. I can’t expand too much on that because of confidentiality and protecting the

prisoner operations integrity. Within prisoner operations and judicial security also includes

witness security.

Witness security is operated by the USMS under the federal witness security program,

AKA, “Witness Protection Program”. This program provides security, safety and health of

government witnesses and their authorizes family members whose lives are in danger because of

the information they will give against a defendant in a court proceeding on behalf of the U.S.

government (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals). Another facet of the USMS that also gets

overlooked is asset forfeiture.

Asset forfeiture is a very important component of the federal government’s law

enforcement efforts to fight major crime by breaking up illegal enterprises, depriving criminals

of the item used in illegal activity, deterring crime and most important (some would argue)

compensation to victims. The value of assets on hand as of September 30th, 201 was $1.8 billion!

This was the value of 14,800 assets accumulated (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).
The amount that was distributed to victims or crime and claimants was $144.7 million. These

assets were forfeited because of illegal activity (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).

The USMS plays a vital role in identifying and evaluating assets that represent the

proceeds of crime as well as selling assets forfeited and seized by the Department of Justice

(Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). The USMS is in charge or a variety of assets

including real estate, commercial businesses, cash, financial instruments, vehicles, jewelry, art,

antiques, collectibles, vessels as well as aircraft (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).

All of the proceeds from these seized asset goes to aiding in the program funds, compensate

victims and support law enforcement efforts.

When I went to visit the task force with the assistant asset forfeiture manager, I got to see

all of the expensive cars that are forfeited. But I was mostly surprised to see the junkier cars that

were forfeited. But it does make sense as the Marshals then auction off all of the goods to the

public, so no matter what they are making a profit off of the item that is being seized. There was

also a pontoon boat, motorcycles, vans, tricked out semi-trucks with hardwood floors and flat

truck beds used for hauling drugs. If a car is <$19,000 or less it is placed outside. The more

expensive cars are placed inside to protect it from the weather and possible people.

Everyone who buys an item from the auction must sign a document stating that they

don’t know the previous owner of the item and must sign a document to corroborate said

statement. In addition, I learned that assets can be seized three different ways; three ways;

judicial, administrative or civil. Administrative is the most common way to seize property. He

said there are separate accounts for each of the three categories and around $60 million are in

each account. This account can't accumulate interest as it was seized and the government can't

make money off of the seized goods. Equable sharing puts 80% of these accounts back to local
police departments. The account is constantly being transferred or being used by the federal

government. Another program that is tasked to the United States Marshals is Sex Offender


With the fairly recent legislation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, the

US Marshals extended its scope into the lead federal agency to investigate violations of federal

sex offender registration laws (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). This piece of

legislation was designed to ensure the investigation of violations of federal sex offender

registration laws. In 2017, there were 376 Adam Walsh Act violation arrests. The USMS are also

in charge of assisting local, state, tribal and territorial jurisdiction (Office of Public Affairs US

Marshals, 2018). The Marshals work with fellow law enforcement to strictly enforce this law and

pursue noncompliant offenders, placing the highest priority on offenders who have committed

violent sexual acts and crimes against children (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).

The Marshals have a National Sex Offender Targeting Center (NSOTC) that supports all levels

of law enforcement pursuing unregistered or noncompliant sex offenders. They assist with the

National Center for Exploited Children as well as the DOJ Sex offender sentencing, monitoring,

apprehending, registering and tracking offices (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).

While in lockup, I have realized that there are many bad people that have committed high

level crimes in order to be tried federally. With that being said, I have heard from deputies that

many of the prisoners have verbalized their hatred for the offenders that allegedly committed sex

acts against children or possess child porn. In a way it is ironic, because the people that are in the

same cell as the sex offender have committed an arguably equal crime against a different entity if

they are in the same place. The “judgmental” prisoners on sex offenders are often times

murderers, attempted murderers, fraud, possession or distribution of dangerous drugs. Each of

which effects a different population. Another facet of the Marshals work with sex offenders is

that NSOTC analysts that conduct behavioral assessments to provide insights into the minds of

suspect and offenders to assist investigators in apprehending noncompliant sex offenders (Office

of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). I think this an important measure in place to protect the

US Marshals going to apprehend these noncompliant offenders as well as give the Marshals the

appropriate tools to deal with someone that has psychological issues. One of the things that I

learned about in class that pertains to sex offenders is Megan’s Law.

Megan’s Law was passed in 2016 to prevent child exploitation through advanced

notification of traveling sex offenders. The law pertains to the US Marshals because it authorizes

them to do two things; one, transmit notification of international travel of sex offenders to a

destination country and two, share information relating to traveling sex offenders with other

federal, state, local and foreign agencies. One of the things that I realized through this internship

is how often the feds work with local agencies. In class, I felt like it was mostly the feds going to

help the local agencies because they have more resources, but really often times it is the other

way around. The feds need the assistance of the local agencies to aid them in fugitives,

information, as well as their resources (personnel and transportation). I also didn’t think about in

a broader sense extending into federal law enforcement.

Under Megan’s Law, the Marshals work with the Department of Homeland Security’s

Angel Watch Center to make sure all traveling sex offenders identified by the enter are

compliant with all requirements and have reported their travel as required by law. In 2017, the

USMS arrested 12,859 sex offenders (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018).

The dominant value orientations of the USMS includes the motto, “Justice. Integrity.

Service.” (Office of Public Affairs US Marshals, 2018). Over the course of my internship with
the USMS, I have heard the phrase, “Represent that silver star well”, referring to the badge they

put on every day and the responsibility they have to uphold the motto. I have also noticed how

the deputies are not afraid to call each other out for certain things and the overarching theme of

hard work and fitness. Fitness has been drilled into my head since the first day of my internship

until the last day, I’m sure. That is the one thing that surprised me the most about this internship.

But, in order to be able to chase after fugitives or go on a foot pursuit the law enforcement agent

needs to be able to hold his/her own and be able to rely on one another. I have always taken

fitness seriously as an athlete, but now that my career requires me to pass fitness tests and qualify

every 6 mos. it has created this bigger picture for me.

Some of the contemporary challenges that face the USMS is staffing shortages and losing

personnel to other federal agencies. Staffing is an issue because many are ordered into different

districts, extraditions, paperwork, or temporary work assignments. Nonetheless, I have seen the

negative effects of not having enough deputies in lockup to take prisoners down to their court

appearance which effects a lot more people than just the defendant. This then backs up the entire

court board because deputies that are late for their 9:30am are then going to be backed up for the

rest of the day because they have to take the prisoner back up to lockup and then take a new

prisoner down to their court hearing. This then makes attorneys mad, judges aggravated, and

Deputy US Marshal Supervisors look bad too for not managing their personnel.

Losing new deputies to other agencies is common as they are a lot more attractive to

other agencies if they have gone through a federal academy. So, they put in their time with the

US Marshals and then they transfer to Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, or DEA. This creates

issues because then they have to send more people to the academy which is highly competitive

and is almost 16 weeks long. So, this process creates holes in departments and staff shortages
that backs up paperwork, court proceedings, and getting tasks done in a timely manner.

However, with all of this being said, I have observed the Marshals communicate efficiently and

effectively with the personnel they have almost all of the time. They are constantly working and

trying to find new ways to speed up the process and make sure people are on the same page.

I am so thankful for my time with the US Marshal Service. I have learned invaluable

lessons about law enforcement, how to write a federal resume, gain invaluable advice from

police officers, US Marshals, FBI agents and from the Assistant Chief of the US Marshals. I am

excited for my future in law enforcement and enacting all the tools and contacts I have gained

from this experience! I will stay diligent and determined to make my mark and help as many

people as possible.