On July 17, four law enforcement agencies converged on a Daly City residence. They were looking for two fugitives: a man and a woman wanted in San Francisco in connection with home-invasion robberies and parole violations.
The midday San Mateo County operation ended peacefully after the two were detained by local police, alongside San Francisco police and sheriff's deputies.
In addition to the local law enforcers, there were U.S. Marshals — the federal police who specialize in apprehending fugitives.
And last week, nine Sheriff's Department deputies joined three dozen Bay Area law enforcement agents who are already deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service. The hope is that the effort will streamline cooperation between the Sheriff's Department and the nation's oldest federal law enforcement agency and its 35 operational staff in the Bay Area. The Sheriff's Department already has a unit that serves warrants and arrests fugitives.
The effort will also aid Sherriff Ross Mirkarimi in another realm: it gives deputies working in a jail system with a shrinking population additional tasks. One of the primary functions of the Sheriff's Department is to operate the County Jail system.
Mirkarimi also recently launched a pilot program that tasks deputies with transporting prisoners from San Francisco police station lockups to County Jail. And he tried but failed to get Board of Supervisors approval to expand his department's electronic monitoring program, which would give his deputies more to do.
“Enhancing public safety and minimizing bureaucracy is the prime reason to secure our cross designation of sheriff's deputies with the U.S. Marshals,” Mirkarimi said in a statement. “We have a round-the-clock warrant service unit and its reach goes well beyond the borders of San Francisco, which makes sense that we cross pollinate with state and federal agencies.”
Raids and arrests that cross county and state lines are a common part of what U.S. Marshals do. In Oakland, for instance, nearly 70 people were apprehended by them in the past two years on homicide or attempted homicide charges.
U.S. Marshals working with local agencies is nothing new, but such cooperation has increased in the past decade or so after the service was given a mandate by Congress. Specifically, U.S. Marshals lead a collection of nationwide regional task forces, which have been given the power to deputize municipal law enforcement agents.
Now, whenever there are fugitives outside The City who have arrest warrants out of San Francisco, these nine deputies are trained and ready to work with U.S. Marshals and vice versa.
“They are the go-to people instead of getting random folks who don't have a sense of what we do or how we operate,” said Frank Conroy, supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Northern District of California. “The benefit to deputizing these folks is they can cross jurisdiction boundaries with us.”
These efforts may be advantageous to local police and the like, but civil libertarians have raised red flags about such increased cooperation. The ACLU has voiced worries that it's harder to get public records on these joint operations.
In some cases, state transparency laws have been useless since local law enforcement has said all documents related to these operations are federal because they are overseen by the U.S. Marshals Service.
In the case of the Sheriff's Department, all documents open to the public that are created by department personnel in such operations will be handed over if requested, spokeswoman Kathy Gorwood said.