Printer Friendly

The US Marshals Service: taming today's frontier.

THE US MARSHALS SERVICE: TAMING TODAY'S FRONTIER US MARSHAL--A TERM THAT BRINGS TO MIND Visions of the Wild West and the man behind the five-pointed star, a man whose sworn duty was to bring to justice the likes of Billy the Kid and the Dalton Gang.

Today's US marshal still stands tall behind the five-pointed star and still requires the versatility to survive a shoot-out. However, his or her duties have taken on a wider, more challenging scope. Each marshal and deputy marshal's duty is not only to bring to justice international terrorists, major drug traffickers, and kingpins of organized crime but also to ensure the safety of these defendants and countless witnesses and members of the judiciary.

The first 13 US marshals were appointed to represent federal authority and enforce federal court orders in 1789 by George Washington. Thus, the Marshals Service is the oldest civilian law enforcement agency in the world. For roughly a century and a half the marshals remained a decentralized group of lawmen. Each marshal, appointed by the president, chose his own deputies and earned a living by the fees and expenses given by the federal government. It wasn't until 1896 that marshals and their deputies drew regular salaries and until 1969 that the US Marshals Service became organized under the Department of Justice.

This year the Marshals Service is celebrating its bicentennial--200 years of turbulent times for the country and the marshals. As federal enforcement officials, the marshals and their deputies are sworn to uphold all federal laws, popular or not. Their colorful history is highlighted by their involvement in quelling the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, tracking and arresting counterfeiters and train robbers, up-holding the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, protecting freed slaves civil and voting rights, acting as strike-breakers during the early days of the labor movement, and enforcing the desegregation rulings handed down in the 1950s and 1960s.

The duties of the Marshals Service have expanded tremendously since the early days of the nation. Today it is responsible for tracking and apprehending fugitives; providing the custody, care, and transportation of prisoners; managing and disposing of all seized and forfeited property and assets from major drug and criminal cases; responding to such emergencies as civil disturbances, terrorist incidents, and hostage situations when federal law has been violated or federal property has been endangered; and providing court security.

This last item--court security--may appear to be a lightweight responsibility when it is stacked up against the Marshals Service's duty to transport more than 90,000 prisoners or manage $800 million worth of seized assets and property each year. However, court security goes far beyond merely securing a room for the judicial process to proceed.

COURT SECURITY IS AN AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY. It entails the protection of more than 1,700 federal judges and magistrates as well as numerous other court officials, jurors, witnesses, and spectators. It entails securing more than 480 locations throughout the nation's 94 federal districts and enforcing countless court orders. All this with a staff of 3,000 full-time employees, of which 2,100 are sworn law enforcement officers.

Court security has become a priority for the Marshals Service over the past decade because of the drastic increase in high-threat or sensitive trials. These trials involve members of terrorist groups, organized crime syndicates, international drug cartels, and paramilitary groups--all of which have violent histories and promise retaliatory measures when crossed.

"There's a totally different kind of defendant coming into the federal criminal justice system than we've ever had before," notes Stanley E. Morris, director of the Marshals Service since 1983. Morris explains that today roughly 70 percent of the prisoners in the Marshals Service's custody are being held for drug trafficking and 60 percent of the witnesses that come into the witness security (WITSEC) program are testifying for drug trials. Add to these figures the acts of terrorism that are drug related and the sky's the limit. "This just wasn't happening 10 or 15 years ago," continues Morris.

Some recent high-threat trials the Marshals Service provided security for include the prosecutions of

] Carlos Enrique Lehder-Rivas--charged in an indictment as being a kingpin in the Medellin Cartel, which controls 80 to 90 percent of all cocaine imported into the United States.

] members of the United Freedom Front--antigovernment revolutionaries charged with seditious conspiracy, racketeering, 10 bank robberies, and 19 bombings of corporate and military facilities; and

] members of Los Macheteros--machete wielders--a terrorist group indicted in connection with the 1983 robbery of $7 million from a Wells Fargo depot in Hartford, CT.

PRESERVING JUSTICE IS A DANGEROUS business but a business all the same. It requires sufficient and efficient resources--both personnel and technology. This year the Marshals Service is operating on a $206 million budget. In addition to these funds, it received approximately $42 million this year from the federal courts for the operation of the court security officer (CSO) program and the purchase and maintenance of security equipment. Also, the proceeds netted from the seized asset program--this year totaling approximately $200 million--are channeled into law enforcement operations around the country for program maintenance, equitable sharing to support additional state and local law enforcement activity, and for the construction of federal prison facilities.

On the face of it, the Marshals Service has a lot of money for the preservation of justice. But not only is it a dangerous business, it's an expensive business. For example, the security provisions for just the pretrial hearings of 16 members of Los Macheteros cost the Marshals Service more than $548,000. Security for the actual trial, expected to last 24 weeks, will cost in the neighborhood of $2 million.

The cost of trial security is directly proportional to the level of threat of the persons on trial. Extensive security precautions have to be implemented during high-threat trials to prevent harm to or escape of defendants as well as to prevent harm to members of the judiciary. The more dangerous the defendants, the higher the degree of security necessary.

The key people who carry out this protection are the deputy marshals, who are full-fledged law enforcement officers. The entrance requirements they face are stiff. To start with, recruits must be under 35 years of age; have a bachelor's degree, three years of responsible experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience, pass a written test; complete an oral exam; be in excellent physical condition; pass a background investigation; and complete a rigorous 13-week training program at the United States Marshals Service Training Academy located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, GA.

"Recruitment is fairly rigorous," explains Morris. "We look for people with a high degree of integrity, intelligence, and ingenuity because we've got a lot more work than we've got people or dollars."

Recruits start with eight weeks of intensive training to sharpen their skills for criminal and fugitive investigations and then move on to training in personal security, handling prisoners, and mastering firearms.

Court security and related topics take up approximately 30 percent of each training program. The curriculum includes courses in legal procedures, where recruits learn what they can and cannot do as federal law enforcement officers. They also study physical security devices, sequestered juries, prisoners in court, controls on grand jury materials, working with sensitive information, and the basic elements of the WITSEC program.

They also take classes in psychology and sociology because the deputies must deal with people who are in very difficult straits. Explains Morris: "These are people who have just been arrested, are witnesses or judges who have just had their life threatened, or are jurors who have spent a year on a trial and now have to spend weeks in a hotel room trying to decide the fate of a defendant. We have to provide a calming, soothing presence as well as a security presence."

Deputy marshals also undergo rigorous firearms training in the academy to qualify them to carry and operate a whole range of weapons. A high proficiency in handling weaponry is essential so that deputies will have the skill to handle any weapon they encounter and the confidence to use their heads in a threatening situation.

The type of firearms and equipment a deputy marshal carries all depends on the operation at hand. Morris acknowledges the deputies primarily rely on defensive activity because of the nature of their responsibility. "If we're providing protection to a witness and suddenly we end up in a blockade situation, our job is not to get the assaulters. Our job is to protect the witness."

The best defense in any situation, stresses Morris, is intelligence. He explains: "I tell our recruits time and time again the most important tool they have isn't the one on their hip or in their purse, it's the one between their ears. Every situation is unique, and that's why intelligence is so important. Intelligence in terms of knowledge and intelligence in terms of inherent skill--there's no substitute for it."

Deputies' everyday duties depend on the situation at hand. For example, their presence may be obvious as they line a route to a courthouse, armed with automatic weapons to prevent a potential ambush on a convoy transporting a defendant. Or, their presence may be inconspicuous as they blend in with other spectators in the courtroom during a judicial proceeding.

Providing adequate security in the courtroom poses an important challenge to the Marshals Service because of the way the judicial system is set up, especially in relation to defendants' rights. "Under the Constitution, people are granted the right to a public trial," notes Morris. "That means, for example, a witness list has to be published in advance. Everyone knows which courtroom will be used, which judge will be sitting on the bench, and where the jury will be filing in. All this information is totally public. The system makes our job more difficult."

Also, it's every judge's job to see justice is done under the law. Yet, some judges have different views on how heavy a security presence they are prepared to permit in their courtroms. "They have a competing interest here," explains Morris. "Obviously they have a personal interest in security and the security of the individuals involved in the judicial process. But they also have a responsibility to see the case is effectively conducted and the defendant gets a verdict that will not be overruled on appeal. Every defense attorney, of course, is going to complain about the prejudicing of the jury against his or her defendants by too heavy a security presence."

Providing the necessary court security in high-threat trials as well as other trials is an onerous burden considering the scope of territory the deputy marshals must service. To lighten the load, the Marshals Service, the federal judiciary in each district, and the Administrative Office of the US Courts set up the court security officer (CSO) program in 1983. Today, approximately 1,100 CSOs, hired under competitive contracts for each of the 14 circuits, provide supplemental security functions in 250 courthouses around the nation.

As with any security function, the primary goal is to prevent a risky situation from taking place in the first place. CSOs, who are sworn special deputy marshals, fulfill this duty by screening all individuals coming into the facility. In 1987 alone, CSOs prevented more than 35,000 weapons from being carried into federal courthouses CSOs also provide any extra security detail needed for a high-threat trial and are immediately available to react to duress alarms and disturbances.

A major factor in providing sufficient court security in the face of limited resources comes from the Marshals Service's threat analysis division (TAD), which was also formed in 1983. TAD's role is to provide immediate, accurate assessments of threats to field personnel and provide information on threat sources in a timely fashion. Analysts accomplish this by working with other law enforcement agency data bases to compile the needed intelligence to determine the level of threat and whether actual physical protection is required and for how long.

TAD's most demanding user is the Court Security Division of the Marshals Service because of the spiraling increase in threats against federal judges and the frequency with which dangerous criminals are prosecuted. For example, in fiscal year 1981, the Marshals Service tallied 76 threats to the federal judiciary. By fiscal year 1987, the number of threats nearly tripled. According to the Marshals Service, approximately 80 percent of all threats TAD analyzes are against judges and magistrates, and the remaining 20 percent are directed against attorneys. The primary threats of interest to the Marshals Service are those made by motorcycle and prison gangs, organized crime and drug cartels, extremist and paramilitary groups, terrorists, and deviate individuals and social movements.

After the CSO program and TAD, support equipment is a third resource that helps the Marshals Service ensure security in the courtroom. When needed, magnetometers, closed-circuit television cameras, X-ray machines, duress alarms, intrusion alarms for the perimeter of a facility, and assorted other devices are incorporated depending on the level of threat involved for each trial.

IN 1970 THE MARSHALS SERVICE TOOK on another major responsibility related to court security--the protection or witnesses whose lives are endangered as a result of testifying for the government in major criminal cases. "The main objective is to keep the people alive," remarks Howard Safir, associate director for operations of the Marshals Service.

The program, though extremely difficult to administer, has been very successful. To date the WITSEC program, in which participation is voluntary, has given over 5,200 witnesses new identities and new live. Add to this number the family members these witnesses take into hiding with them and the Marshals Service estimates the total placed soars to approximately 11,000. "It doesn't matter if it's just one family member or a dozen, we place whoever is in danger as a result of the testimony," says Safir.

For a witness to participate in WITSEC, he or she must first be sponsored by a US attorney of the district in which the prosecution will take place. The attorney applies to the Office of Enforcement Operations of the Department of Justice. Personnel there call the Marshals Service, which schedules a preliminary interview with the witness and his or her family. At that point a representative of the program sits down with the prosecutor, the witness, and the case agent and explains the program. The objective of the interview is to see if the witness is suited to the program. The Marshals Service then makes a recommendation to the Department of Justice, which makes the final decision.

As soon as a witness joins the program, a witness security specialist, working covertly, picks up the witness and his or her family--whoever is in danger--and delivers them to an intake area, which is a safe house. The specialist takes away all their original identifying documents and eventually relocates the witness and family in a new city with new identities, new jobs, new schools--basically restructuring their lives.

"The purpose of the program," emphasizes Safir, "is to ensure that people who testify aren't hurt. If they desire, they can live their lives peacefully as productive members of the community. In the years this program has been in operation, no one who has followed our security guidelines has ever been caught or harmed."

Participating in the program is hard on witnesses because they give up basically all connections with their past lives. "It's a very traumatic thing to do," empathizes Safir. "But people who are in the program are in it because they're in real danger. The alternative is to stay where they were and get killed."

Despite the danger, some participants have breeched their security because they found it too difficult to cut all ties with their past. In such cases, says Safir, the Marshals Service moves the witnesses again. If the witnesses continue to breech their own security, the service will not continue to move them. "We can only protect people who want to be protected," adds Safir.

The program is set up to minimize any potential emotional trauma. When placing witnesses, the specialists consider their background, medical history, and other important determinants before choosing a location in which to resettle them.

"There are a number of reasons we can't give them a choice of areas in which to relocate," explains Safir. "If you give them a choice, everybody will want to go to San Diego, Miami, or Hawaii. Secondly, everybody wants to go where they know somebody, which is the worst thing they can do. So we pick the location. But, if somebody has an absolutely horrendous reaction to it, we'll look for somewhere else to place them."

Another factor that makes managing the WITSEC a great challenge is the witnesses themselves. Ninety-seven percent of the program's witnesses are serious felons. "So, our general client," sighs Safir, "is a fairly difficult person to deal with. He or she is generally uneducated and has no marketable skills--other than criminal skills. We have to do a lot of vocational training, but we work with many large and small corporations throughout the United States to help us find the right jobs for them."

The temptation for the participants in the program to fall back to a life of crime exists but is not great. Safir notes that they experience about a 23 percent recidivism rate--less than half the national average. Witnesses are warned that the program does not shield them from further punishment or incarceration if they continue to commit criminal acts.

"We don't keep people from committing crimes, but we know about them when they do," continues Safir. The Marshals Service finds out through the national crime data base it coordinates with other law enforcement agencies.

The data base is set up so that it can identify the witness even though he or she is arrested under a new name. A Marshals Service representative is then sent immediately to the facility holding the witness to notify officials of the special treatment the situation requires. If that facility is not equipped to provide the necessary protection, the witness is moved to a federal facility to serve his or her time.

The Marshals Service's 165 WITSEC specialists, who work in undisclosed locations around the nation, average eight cases each. "It's an elite program," beams Safir. "We look for people with not only good enforcement skills but also very good interpersonal skills."

Because of the personality profile of the average witness and the trauma he or she must endure, these specialists have to be able to temper their charges' requests with realism. It's an extremely stressful job. "They have to be half cop, half social worker," explains Safir.

To become WITSEC specialists, deputy marshals must have at least three to five years' experience in the service. They then attend a six-week special witness security school, undergo psychological and physical testing, and must pass additional oral interviews.

These recruits then work for a year with established specialists to get on-the-job training. During the period they are carefully supervised. "We watch the security people all the time," adds Safir, "because the information they possess is extremely sensitive and valuable. Security is something we have to look for breaches in all the time."

The Marshals Service is on the edge of a new frontier, much different, perhaps even more demanding than the frontier the marshals set out to tame 200 years ago. The internationalization of crime through drug trafficking and terrorism has widened the territory in which justice must prevail. This situation, according to Morris, may instigate some form of international policing, perhaps an international marshals service.

In the long run, admits Morris, the continued success of the Marshals Service will depend on how smart the marshals and their deputies are in understanding their adversaries. He continues: "It all comes down to good people. It always has."

PHOTO : Depending on the circumstances of each high-threat trial, the presence of the deputy

PHOTO : marshals may be very inconspicuous. Here the deputy marshal discreetly surveils a

PHOTO : courthouse from an undisclosed location.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Murphy, Joan H.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Previous Article:Is the U.S. next?
Next Article:Law and disorder: a volatile mix.

Related Articles
Things aren't so great at the OK Corral.
The Wild Wild West of the World Wide Web.
I fought the law, and the law won.
Fort Smith gunning for Marshals Museum.
The other pioneers African-Americans on the Frontier: although they rarely make it into the history books, black men and women helped shape the Old...
How the western was won.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters