- - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

By Mike Earp and David Fisher
William Morrow, $26, 348 pages

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Deputy U.S. Marshal: Seven times before lunch.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Marshals Service celebrated its 225th anniversary, making them the country’s oldest law enforcement agency — and, according to Mike Earp, being a deputy U.S. marshal is one of the most dangerous jobs in law enforcement. The deputy U.S. marshals are involved in more gunfights and physical altercations with criminals than the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency.

In his book, “U.S. Marshals,” Mr. Earp, a former associate director of the Marshals Service and a relative of legendary Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp, offers tales from the deputy marshals who track and arrest the criminals that law enforcement considers the “worst of the worst.”

Mr. Earp retired as the third highest-ranking official in the U.S. Marshals Service in 2012 after 29 years of service. As the associate director for operations, he supervised all operational divisions and programs for the agency.

His book is based on interviews with more than 50 current and former deputies and recounts some of the agency’s greatest and most dangerous cases. There are stories about the chase and capture of violent outlaw bikers, drug traffickers and murderers. There are also stories of well-known fugitives the marshals captured, such as the escaped prisoner and convicted spy Christopher Boyce, New York mobster and stone-cold killer Charlie Carneglia and D.C. sniper John Muhammad.

Mr. Earp explains in the book how the Marshals Service formed its fugitive task forces around the country, which are composed of deputy U.S. marshals and other federal, state and local police officers. The state and local cops are sworn in as deputy U.S. marshals, giving them nationwide authority.

The Marshals Service also organizes an annual weeklong nationwide manhunt. Called Operation FALCON, it stands for Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally. The Marshals Service picks one week in the course of a year and all of the task forces in the country deputize additional state and local police for that one week. The task forces then concentrate on capturing the very worst-of-the-worst criminals.

This is “Hell Week” for fugitives. In 2008, Operation Falcon netted 19,380 fugitives, among them 161 homicide suspects and more than 1,000 sex offenders.

Despite stories of vicious crimes and violent criminals who most often resist arrest, Mr. Earp also presents a good bit of humor in the book. I like that. One of the things I’ve learned from covering cops and federal agents and going out on many ride-alongs over the years is that cops and feds are usually funny, like the cop characters you find in Joseph Wambaugh’s novels.

I contacted Mr. Earp and asked him why he wrote the book.

“Whenever I introduced myself as a U.S. marshal, people nodded their heads and then asked me what do marshals do? So I decided along with David Fisher that we would tell the story of the men and women of the Marshals Service,”

With the name Earp, it seems that one was almost destined to become a U.S. marshal. Mr. Earp said he was told by his father that they were related to the Virgil Earp side of the family (Wyatt Earp didn’t have children), but it was a neighbor of his parents who happened to be in the Marshals Service who introduced him to the law enforcement agency.

Mr. Earp spoke of the storied history of the Marshals Service.

“The marshals are remembered from the old Wild West. For a period of time, the other federal law enforcement agencies were doing criminal investigations and the Marshals Service was protecting the courts and transporting prisoners,” Mr. Earp told me. “Then, right after the Vietnam era, a lot of veterans came into the Marshals Service, and they wanted more action. They wanted to chase the bad guys.”

Mr. Earp noted that in 2012 the Marshals Service tracked down and arrested more than 122,000 fugitives. Most of the cases are referred to the Marshals Service from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Secret Service; the FBI; and Department of Homeland Security, as well as from state and local agencies. The fugitives, Mr. Earp explained, are killers, child abductors and high-profile drug cartel and gang members.

“Most of these fugitives have fled the area, and they are off the grid,” Mr. Earp said. “The Marshals Service can use [its] nationwide network and bring all of [its] resources together to go hunt them down.”

“I like to believe that all Americans can sleep a little easier knowing these manhunters are out there at all hours of the day and night, kicking down doors, stopping vehicles and arresting heinous fugitives,” Mr. Earp writes in the book. “As we have done since 1789, the United States Marshals Service makes this country a better place and makes every one of us safer and more secure.”

“U.S. Marshals” is a fast-paced, interesting and well-told story about modern-day manhunters.

Paul Davis is a writer who covers law enforcement, intelligence and the military.

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