Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

What Is A United States Marshal And Why Was I One?

james-arness-red.jpgus-marshal.jpgtommy-lee-jones.jpgWhen I mention my background in law enforcement, and talk about my twenty-five years with the Denver Police Department, everyone understands what that was about. When I mention that I was the United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002, they often don’t understand what that was about–but are too polite to ask.  I just now received an email from a participant in a recent class, asking me to explain why I would have been a United States Marshal but lived in Colorado. Fair question, and this is the brief answer, though a more lengthy answer is available online.  

The United States Marshals Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency. (The United States Postal Inspectors were actually first by a short time. However, most people think of the Marshals Service as the more traditional law enforcement role, thanks in part to James Arness, John Wayne, Tommy Lee Jones, and others who helped establish an entertainment and media awareness of the organization.) It was started by President George Washington in 1789, to support the federal courts and to carry out the orders of federal judges, Congress and the President. That is still the role of the agency, but its scope has expanded dramatically, to include worldwide fugitive apprehension and prisoner transport, court security, protection for federal witnesses and prosecutors, and other protective assignments. It’s a complex agency with over 3,000 deputies and over 2,000 civilian employees.

Each federal court district has a United States Marshal, appointed by the President.  The fact that it is a Presidential appointment, confirmed by the Senate, is part of its historic nature. Unfortunately, there have been U.S. Marshals who had little or no law enforcement background, just as there are some county sheriffs who have little or no law enforcement background.  However, in recent years almost all United States Marshals have worked for local, county, state or federal law enforcement agencies.

There are 94 Marshals because some states have multiple court districts. Colorado is one district, which is why Supervisory Deputy Dave Floyd used to call me “The Princess of the High Plains”. (Or, at least he said that was his reason.) The United States Marshal works with a Chief Deputy and deputies and employees, to accomplish the tasks of the office. Deputies are often called U.S. Marshals in newspaper articles–and they often refer to themselves in that way–because they work for the U.S. Marshals Service. As a result,  it confuses people even more when they meet the U.S. Marshal for the district.  My mother insisted upon referring to me, erroneously, as the Chief of the Colorado U.S. Marshals Service, so no one would miss the fact that I was in charge. I wish she had made that clear to the deputies who worked with me!

I was encouraged to apply for the position of U.S. Marshal by several federal judges in whose courtrooms I had appeared over the years.  A dozen or so other people applied, including the Deputy Chief of the Denver Police Department, and the Director of the Colorado State Patrol. After an elimination process our three names were forwarded to the Department of Justice by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colorado). As it turned out, I had been part of a project with the Director of the Marshals Service at one time and he supported me for the job. I also had support I didn’t know about for several years. Eventually I was confirmed by the Senate and was appointed in May of 1994.  In case you’re wondering about my political connections–I was a registered Unaffiliated voter,  and I was fortunate that Senator Campbell was not highly partisan. He became a Republican a year or so after that!

During my tenure Larry Homenick was the Chief Deputy for the District and we made a great team. He had been in the agency for over twenty years and had a tremendous career. He was once featured making an arrest on America’s Most Wanted, and a book was written about one of his most famous assignments. I’ll tell you more about him in another post, to allow him the space he deserves.  I also was privileged to be directly involved in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, as well as other major trials and important activities, and will always value the experiences, knowledge and skills I gained from them.

So, that is how I could be a United States Marshal but live in Colorado: I wasn’t the Marshal for the United States; I was the Marshal for the United States Federal Court District of Colorado. It was a great job, as was my time with the Denver Police Department. However, right now I’d rather be doing exactly what I’m doing!

February 4th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | no comments

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