When the suspect in the fatal ambush of a Pennsylvania State Police officer and the wounding of another trooper was captured after a seven-week manhunt it was at the hands of the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.
Although the November 2014 arrest made headlines across the country, it was just one of the hundreds of apprehensions made that day – and every day – by the U.S. Marshals Service, which was created in 1789 by President George Washington.
The agency has played a key role during defining moments in the country’s history, whether it was responding to the violent tax protests known as the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s or enforcing court orders mandating the end of segregation in the South during the 1960s.
“From upholding the law in our untamed western territories to tracking and apprehending the most notorious fugitives, the U.S. Marshals Service has been committed to answering the call of our great nation for justice,” Director Stacia Hylton said in a September 2014 statement marking the agency’s 225th anniversary.
While the Marshals Service is best known for apprehending fugitives, it has wide-ranging responsibilities, including: providing security at federal courthouses; housing and transporting prisoners; protecting federal witnesses and judges; and disposing of assets seized during criminal investigations.
The organization has grown to more than 5,400 employees, including nearly 3,900 Deputy U.S. Marshals and criminal investigators, and approximately 1,500 administrative employees. The agency’s 2014 budget allocation topped $1.1 billion.
The Marshals Service provides security at 440 court locations spread across 94 districts nationwide. It seeks to ensure the safety of about 10,000 judicial employees, including judges, federal prosecutors and other court staff. In 2013, Deputy U.S. Marshals handled more than 1,100 incidents involving threats against members of the judiciary.
The service also supervises an average of 60,000 prisoners per day in state, federal and private facilities. During fiscal year 2013, it also conducted almost 300,000 transportations of federal prisoners by air and ground.
At the end of that same 12-month period, the agency was holding more than 22,000 seized assets valued at $2 billion. The agency distributed about $200 million to crime victims and shared $571 million with local and state law enforcement agencies in FY 2013.
Still, apprehending fugitives remains the agency’s main function. In 2013, Deputy U.S. Marshals captured more than 110,000 fugitives, including 4,000 homicide suspects and 5,000 individuals suspected of gang membership.
The 15 Most Wanted program has been a staple of the organization since 1983, resulting in the capture of 224 absconders who were considered armed and dangerous.
Becoming a Deputy U.S. Marshal is a rigorous process that includes interviews, assessments and a background investigation. Candidates must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21 and 36, and are required to be in excellent physical condition.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field is typically a minimum education requirement.
Newly hired Deputy U.S. Marshals must complete about 18 weeks of basic training at the service’s academy in Georgia, including courses on firearms use, first aid, surveillance methods and defensive tactics.