The History of the US Marshals. Essay on Federal Law Enforcement

The United States Marshals Service (USMS) was the first federal law enforcement agency to be established in the United States. They were established in response to the Federal Judiciary Act implemented on September 24, 1789 (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). President George Washington did the honor of appointing the first thirteen US Marshals in the fall of 1789. The act detailed that the US Marshall position be restricted to a term of four years unless otherwise stated by the President of the United States in accordance with their preference (Turk, 2016). Marshals could hire deputies they wish to have and fire those they do not want from the term of the prior Marshal. Though their sole duty is the support the federal courts, the USMS were responsible to uphold many different responsibilities over the years. 

From 1789 to 1865 the Marshals worked for the Department of Treasury pursing counterfeiters and counterfeit operations (Turk, 2016). They were also required by Congress to implement a national census every ten years (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). When the Secret Service was established in 1865, they took over pursing counterfeiters from the US Marshals (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, and the Marshals were now responsible for enforcing this act by returning any fugitive slaves to their southern masters, if or when they escaped until 1861 (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.).

During the Civil War the Marshals Service was given the job of confiscating property used to benefit the Confederacy as well as locate and apprehend Confederate spies (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). Shortly, after the Civil War, in July of 1870, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was created and took over the supervision of the US Marshals Service, which continues to this day (Turk, 2016). Around 1890, the duties we still see at the core of  the agency to this day begin to emerge as law was passed requiring US Marshals to be responsible for the protection for federal court judges which morphed into the protection of all aspects of the federal judiciary system. The Marshals, unlike other federal agencies of the time, did not have restricted duties, therefore they could render aid when others could not. For example, the Marshals assisted Internal Revenue agents enforce the tax on whiskey since revenue agents did not have the power to arrest until 1913 (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). During World War I, the US Marshals were responsible to protect the home front while all military personal were overseas, along with making sure there were no enemy aliens, spies, or saboteurs in the country (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). During World War II, the Marshals were also very helpful in the national success by regulating the transportation of forgien enemies to interment camps and locating draft dodgers (Turk, 2016). 

The US Marshals played a large role in the 1919 prohibition on liquor by becoming responsible for arresting bootleggers and seizing their assets funded by the illegal sale of alcohol (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). The Marshals were relieved of this duty in 1927, when the Bureau of Prohibition was established (Turk, 2016). The Civil Right Movement beginning in 1960 required the use of the US Marshals Service to provide protection specifically for James Meredith and Ruby Bridges (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). James Meredith was the first African American to be accepted into a white college and Ruby Bridges was the first African American female to be allowed to attend public school(“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). The US Marshals Witness Security Program was established in response to the need for protection by African Americans and the passage of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). 

Starting in 1941 to about 2002 the modern structure and duties of the USMS became evident. In 1979 the Attorney General decided to transfer the responsibility of fugitive operations including fugitive apprehension from the FBI to the US Marshals (Turk, 2016). The Marshals also took on the role of asset forfeiture and disposal for other federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. The established of the USMS seal along with their own headquarters was also a notable transformation in the USMS becoming more of an independent agency.   

Many of the original duties of the US Marshals Service are no longer the responsibility of the agency to uphold and have been pasted on to other federal law enforcement agencies and organizations, though there are few that remain. The “modern-day” US Marshals Service have many duties that they are responsible for carrying out. The first of which is providing judicial security. The USMS is responsible for protecting federal judicial process and the people involved in this process such as federal judges, other court officials like the clerk of courts, witnesses, jurors, those visiting from the public, as well as the prisoner. Deputy Marshals protect ninety-four district courts in the United States and the twelve circuits of the United States Court of Appeals, totaling approximately seven hundred and eleven judicial facilities (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). 

While the Deputy Marshals are protecting the courtroom and the people inside, USMS criminal investigators are doing intelligence research into possible threats to the federal judiciary so that Deputies can adequately respond to such threats. Physical security specialists manage the  physical security infrastructure of the judiciary buildings by repairing, replacing, and installing designs for security projects across the seven hundred and eleven facilities. US Deputy Marshals are also required in some circumstances to provide protective service details to individuals such as Supreme Court Justices, the Deputy Attorney General, along with other protected persons as they travel about the country to different work-related functions. 

The US Marshals Service is also responsible for different fugitive operations, which is there primary duty as a federal agency. Having the broadest arrest range of all the federal law enforcement agencies the USMS is the primary agency for fugitive investigations in the United States. Deputy Marshals will aid local law enforcement within their district to locate and arrest some of the most wanted fugitives of the area or possibly the country. The USMS will help by establishing task forces comprised of state and local law enforcement agencies, allowing them to be deputized so they can exercise the authorities the USMS have, making it easier for them to apprehend wanted fugitives in their area. 

The USMS along with task force personal will also peruse some of the most dangerous high-profile fugitives in the country and in some circumstances the world. They partner with international law enforcement agencies to apprehend fugitives from the United States who have fled to other countries or foreign fugitives that have fled to the United States. On average the USMS will arrest or clear approximately eighty thousand fugitives a year and clear over one hundred thousand warrants (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). Along with the task forces, the USMS will set up counter gang units in areas that struggle with gang violence in order to dismantle the assembly of criminal organizations such as drug trafficking rings or money laundering organizations. 

Another one of the Marshals duties is to maintain their asset forfeiture program, which plays a key role in the agencies goal to disrupt illegal enterprises by striping criminals of the proceeds of their illegal activity. The assets forfeiture program was created in 1984 and a product of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). Assets are anything that is bought or derived using money acquired from illegal activity like vehicles, jewelry, real estate, cash, etc. (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). If assets can they will be returned to the victims of these enterprises. If the property is not something to be returned the USMS will sell the assets and the money from the sales are used to continue the operation of their program along with compensating victims for their loss and supporting law enforcement efforts across the country. For 2018, the total value of assets obtained by the USMS was one point eight billion dollars (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). 

Prisoner operations are another integral part of the duties a Deputy Marshal will perform. They are responsible to oversee while providing protection during all detention matters of those who are remanded to the custody of the attorney general. They must make sure that they also provide protection to the prisoner and make sure they are treated humanly while they are in custody by making sure that all prisoners have access to proper medical care, housing, and transportation to legal proceedings. Transportation is often the focus because there must be considerable amount of coordination and scheduling with detention facilities in order to make sure all prisoners are present for their legal hearings and the transport is done securely. The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation along with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) transport prisoners daily across all ninety-four judicial districts in the country by aircraft, buses, and vans. The USMS aid in this transportation process by providing transportation in the area of their district offices. 

The Witness Security Program also known as the “Witness Protection Program” was established in 1971 and is another duty of the USMS (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.) Deputy Marshals are to provide safety to governmental witnesses and authorized family members. This protection is twenty-four hours a day seven days a week until otherwise stated (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). Typically, witnesses under their protection will receive new identity’s along with documentation to prove their new identity. Depending of the severity of the situation witnesses may be provided with housing, medical care, and financial assistance due to the inability to safely hold a job at that time. To determines one’s entry to the program there is an extensive and intensive vetting program conducted by many agencies. No one that has followed to rules or directions of the agents running the program have ever been hurt or killed out of the approximately nineteen thousand participants since its establishment. 

 More recently, in 2006, after the passing of the Adam Walsh Protection Act, the USMS was given the responsibility of being the lead federal agency to investigate violations to the federal sex offender registration laws (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). They also partner with state and local agencies to aid in the pursuit of noncompliant sexual offenders. With almost thirteen thousand sex offenders arrested in 2017, priority must be established and cases involving children take priority (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). In 2016, through the establishment of Megan’s Law, the USMS was also giving the task of notifying other federal, state, local agencies, as well as international law enforcement of traveling sex offenders (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.).

Since 2005, the USMS have paired with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s and have aided in locating over one thousand missing children (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). With the passing of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, Deputy Marshals were given more power to assist state and local agencies with missing children cases regardless of if the individual in question is a fugitive or sexual offender (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.). Though missing children investigations are not one of the primary duties of the USMS, the assistance of the USMS can be requested as well by state and local agencies if the circumstances surrounding the situation are of higher risk in order to spend up the process in hopes they will be able to find the child alive. During 2017, the USMS was contacted two hundred and fifty-five times for assistance in locating a missing child and out of those two hundred and fifty-five, the USMS was able to locate one hundred and seventy-five missing children (“U.S. Marshals Service”, n.d.).

The last duty of the USMS, which there is not mush information about, is to preform tactical operations when needed. Little is known about these duties because generally these operations are pertaining to sensitive or classified information. The Special Operations Group (SOG) is comprised of voluntary Deputy US Marshals who meet the necessary standards. They are protected with advanced training and the specific specialized equipment to maintain order during  high-risk and sensitive law enforcement situations, national emergencies, civil disorders and natural disasters. They may also aide the national guard during public health emergencies such as a flu or disease outbreak by dispensing medication and necessities to areas in need.



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