By David Tulis
Local police and sheriff’s deputies stand in the shadows as news reports tell how a federal agency led a fugitive roundup in the Chattanooga area.
The U.S. Marshals Service here has been part of a “national initiative” to round up fugitives in several states. In eastern Tennessee, more than 160 fugitives — from gang members, sex offenders and violent defendants — are under arrest. The roundup was part of a six-week-long program dubbed Operation Violence Reduction7, or VR7.
The job of the Marshals Service is apprehension of fugitives, protection of federal judges, hauling federal prisoners, protecting endangered federal witnesses and managing assets seized from criminal enterprises. Marshals arrest more than half of federal fugitives.
State crimes enforced by U.S.?
Several of those arrested are wanted on charges that will be tried in state court. For example, Joe King had been wanted in Hardeman County for violation of probation for statutory rape, not a federal offense. Others had been sought in homicide cases. Homicide is a state matter unless it occurs in the limits of federal jurisdiction.
Local authorities have so long operated as aides to federal authorities that they readily join in celebratory remarks at VR7’s conclusion.
“We work very close together every day trying to rid the streets of violent criminals,” says Allen Branham of Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department. “Sometimes the criminals are, you know, they don’t know the boundary lines so we have to work very close together. *** We with the Sheriff’s Office offer whatever resources we’ve got. Whether its manpower, intelligence, you know, access to information.”
Top sheriff’s and police department officials made statements suggesting they have no reservations about cooperating with the Marshals Service.
‘Beneficial ripple effect’
“Operations like VR7 are a great opportunity to showcase the benefits of our continuing collaboration with other law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local level,” says Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond. “Through these efforts we are able to improve the safety of our communities by bringing these violent fugitives to justice.”
For Chattanooga Police Department Chief Fred Fletcher, it matters little who arrests fugitives if they are brought to bar.
“We show our commitment to our citizens and their safety through operations like VR7,” he says, “because not only are these dangerous criminals taken off the streets, but so are drugs and weapons. These arrests have a beneficial ripple effect because many of these fugitives have a history of violent offenses.”
Local authorities and federal marshals have “always had a really good working relationship,” says Lieutenant Tammy Cook heads up the organized crime division of the Chattanooga Police Department.
Coverage was largely glowing, with no consideration as to whether the fugitives were apprehended within the state or in federal jurisdiction. “A total of 7,100 fugitives are now in custody because of this operation. Officers on the front lines say it was a job well done,” a TV report said.
Coverage closely followed well organized media releases, including this dazzler:
Between March 2 and April 10, Operation VR7 resulted nationwide in 7,127 arrests, including 750 gang members, and the seizure of 383 firearms and more than 69 kilograms of illegal narcotics. Individual charges included 519 for homicide; 922 for weapons; 1,888 for assault; 583 for sexual assault; 1,093 for robbery; and 2,654 for narcotics. Additionally, 10 missing children were recovered.
Military operation in neighborhoods
The public can breathe more easily, I suppose, now that so many bad guys are in jail cells awaiting arraignment.
The first thing that bothers me is that the show of force in many of these arrests was not of peace officers, but soldiers. The militarization of police is continuing apace, despite the outcry of the Ferguson, Mo., shooting and the declamations from the U.S. Justice Department.
The same day the sweep was announced another story on TV12 in Chattanooga tells us, “Police departments are busy training to keep our community safe from shootings.” The paramilitary training in the former McBrien elementary school lets police officers clad as soldiers deal with a live shooter scenario that could hit assembled children in a school. “You work the way you train,” Mr. Fletcher says. “Coaches say it all the time. You play the way you train. And the more realistic you can make training, the more prepared we are gonna be to keep people safe when we actually have to employ these tactics.”
Elsewhere across the U.S., federal troops are exercising in cities, as if practicing a scenario in which they are involved in combat on American soil.
A second worry: With each engagement such as the marshals’ program, local authorities reaffirm their relationships with feds. They would appear to be more firmly enmeshed in national policing, in an interlocking relationship in which they are junior partners, jealous perhaps of the swagger among some marshals, but unwilling to break off the affair that gives local elected law enforcement officers good press and a bit of excitement.
Pragmatism and professionalism appear to control, with results sold to the public without the question being raised of which jurisdiction and who is doing the arresting. Is an arrest an arrest? Is one rape suspect off the street just a rape suspect off the street?
No. It matters who enforces the law, or who seizes a fugitive who has committed a real crime. (Law enforcement and apprehending criminals are not necessarily the same things, as many laws that are “enforced” are not real crimes, torts, injuries to the innocent or even sins.) Who arrests a fugitive matters because policing originally was local, based in a county, with the man in charge responsible to the people and answerable to them by election. For the first 150 years of our country, only a little activity was policed interstate.
Implied in local policing is local control. National control is implied in PR-generating events such as VR7, a national policing big event.
In trading with the marshals service, local police and sheriff’s departments continue to extend the compromise with the U.S. to which they’ve yielded. They are less accountable to local people, don’t reflect their authority and interests, and allow federal police to initiate arrests of state people involved in state crimes.
That’s a bad idea. The feds have too much on their plate already. But they’re ready to share. Next will be their bringing illegal total bulk surveillance from Stingray devices and NSA into the local law enforcement picture. The process of “parallel construction” occurs when local authorities launder illicit U.S. surveillance data to create a believable account of how police nailed a suspect using routine, old-fashioned police investigation techniques.
Is there a way to start withdrawing from an unholy alliance?
—David Tulis hosts Nooganomics.com 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays on Hot News Talk Radio 1240 910 1190 AM, covering local economy and free markets in Chattanooga and beyond. Encourage independent media by supporting this website and Hot News Talk Radio 1240 910 1190 AM — on the real airwaves in Chattanooga, on your smartphone via the TuneIn radio app, or online at Hotnewstalkradio.com. You support me first by supporting my advertisers and telling them you love and appreciate Hot News Talk Radio. You support me also by advertising your business or church on my three-city all-talk network. On this site, buy me a coffee at the tip jar.
Sources: Amy Katcher, “US Marshals Service captures 160+ East TN fugitives and dangerous criminals,” wdef.com, Chattanooga, April 17, 2015. http://www.wdef.com/news/story/US-Marshals-Service-captures-160-East-TN/lTvukzOKPUGWtzZWXewHig.cspx
John Wilson, “More Than 160 Arrested During Operation Violence Reduction7,” Chattanoogan.com, April 17, 2015. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2015/4/17/298430/More-Than-160-Arrested-During-Operation.aspx
Dan Lampariello, “U.S. Marshals sweep nets 94 arrests,” April 16, 2015, wbbctv.com, Hardeman County. http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/US-Marshals–300232981.html