U.S. Marshals:

Qualifications and Comparison of Demographic Characteristics to Their Counterparts in Selected Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

GAO-10-15R: Published: Nov 13, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 2009.

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Federal law does not mandate specific qualifications for individuals appointed as U.S. Marshals. However, Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 states that U.S. Marshals should possess certain minimum characteristics in order to serve. The suggested characteristics are (1) a minimum of 4 years of command-level law enforcement management duties, including personnel, budget, and accountable property issues, in a police department, sheriff's office, or federal law enforcement agency; (2) experience in coordinating with other law enforcement agencies, particularly at the state and local levels; (3) college-level academic experience; and (4) experience in or with county, state, and federal court systems or experience with protection of court personnel, jurors, and witnesses. In contrast to the appointment process for U.S. Marshals, the senior field supervisors of other federal law enforcement agencies with comparable duties and responsibilities are selected under competitive, merit-based promotion criteria outlined in Title 5 of the U.S. Code. These individuals are required to apply and compete for these positions and meet any identified minimum standards. Minimum qualifications used to select senior field supervisors at some of the federal law enforcement agencies vary, but all require prior supervisory law enforcement experience. In April 2003, we reported on the appointment and qualifications of U.S. Marshals at which time there were no statutory provisions on the suggested minimum characteristics of U.S. Marshals. We also reported that while the average length of overall law enforcement experience of U.S. Marshals was not significantly different than that of senior field supervisors at the three selected federal law enforcement agencies, the level of government (federal, state, local, or county level) from which the experience was obtained differed. With passage of the act, Congress requested that we address the following questions (1) To what extent do the U.S. Marshals possess the four suggested minimum characteristics included in Section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005? (2) To what extent are the U.S. Marshals' experience, education, race, and gender comparable to those of senior field supervisors in other federal law enforcement agencies?

A majority of U.S. Marshals possessed the suggested command-level law enforcement and college-level academic experience, according to USMS documentation. However, the absence of documentation made it difficult to determine the extent to which U.S. Marshals possessed the suggested experience in coordinating with other law enforcement agencies and experience with court systems and protecting court personnel. USMS based its determination that U.S. Marshals had at least 4 years of "command-level law enforcement management" experience on whether U.S. Marshals previously had served in a police or sheriff's department at the lieutenant level or above; as a supervisory criminal investigator in a federal law enforcement agency; or as a colonel or above in a military police unit, criminal investigation unit, or a similar military law enforcement function. USMS officials stated that this experience helps ensure that U.S. Marshals can effectively and efficiently manage the district offices. USMS did not consider positions in security or as prosecutors to be command-level experience. Of the 83 U.S. Marshals, USMS documentation showed that 64 possessed the suggested minimum characteristic of college-level academic experience, while 19 did not. USMS defined college-level academic experience to be, at a minimum, a 2-year college degree. Further, regarding experience in coordinating with other law enforcement agencies, USMS documentation showed that 45 of the 83 U.S. Marshals possessed this suggested characteristic, while 38 had insufficient documentation in the file to determine whether they possessed this characteristic. USMS determined whether the U.S. Marshals had this characteristic based on documentation in USMS files indicating that the U.S. Marshals had been employed at a law enforcement agency and had experience in working with other law enforcement agencies, such as being a member of a task force that included other law enforcement agencies. While U.S. Marshals and senior field supervisors at selected federal law enforcement agencies had similar amounts of law enforcement experience before they were appointed or assigned to their position, there was a smaller proportion of U.S. Marshals with prior federal law enforcement experience than the senior field supervisors at other federal law enforcement agencies. Also, the U.S. Marshals had less diversity and education than their counterparts at other law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Marshals had an average of 25 years prior law enforcement experience. Similarly, supervisors from the other six federal law enforcement agencies averaged between 20 and 24 years of prior law enforcement experience. Further, U.S. Marshals had an average of 10 years of prior supervisory law enforcement experience, compared to senior field supervisors at the other six federal law enforcement agencies who ranged from 6 to 12 years of prior supervisory law enforcement experience.

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