The Sound of Music
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Well, I started in 1990 when I was assigned to the sub-office in Beaumont, Texas. We only had a few deputies and had to do virtually everything that the Marshal Service does. In a typical day, I would arrive at the office, go pick up a prisoner at the jail, bring him over and produce him in court, take him back to the jail, come back to the office, work on a fugitive warrant of someone I was looking for, then go serve civil process, and then go seize a ship down at the port. Then I'd come back in the afternoon and work with our witness protection inspector, and then work with the judges on physical security concerns for the judiciary. We did so much that I gained very good background in the Marshal Service in the first five years of my career.
After five years in Beaumont, I came to Houston; the Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force had just been originated. And, that's actually the task force that H.E.A.T. is based on in Chase. I began as an investigator conducting fugitive investigations. In 1997, I was promoted to Supervisor, and later to Task Force Commander, and served in that role until being promoted to the Assistant Chief Deputy in Houston in January of '08. And now, in my role as Assistant Chief, I'm in a position where I can actually oversee and coordinate the operation of the Gulf Coast Task Force, but not just from a Houston perspective and from one office, but actually for the entire district.
I've been fortunate that I have spent the majority of my career in fugitive investigations and fugitive apprehension. That was my main interest, and obviously what I really wanted to do in my career.
Without question, the most rewarding thing is actually going out and locating someone who is a violent offender, who has hurt someone in the community, who has the potential for violence, to continue to inflict harm on the citizens of our area. To actually apprehend that individual, lock them up, and know that at least for that night, they're not going to do that again. That's the motivation that's kept me going, and I know that's the motivation that keeps the young deputy U.S. Marshals on our task force going.
Versatility, intuition, and good common sense, is the recipe for the perfect U.S. Marshal. You have to be versatile, because you have to deal with so many different levels of people. On any given day, a deputy U.S. Marshal may be out on the street, pursuing a violent offender, when suddenly they get a call that one of our judges has been threatened. They go out and assess the situation, and establish a protective detail. So they may have to switch hats on a moment's notice and maintain a professional demeanor and communicate effectively with anyone they may come in contact with, no matter what level of society they're in, no matter what job they're in, or what role they may be playing that day.
You certainly have to be able to read people. And that goes to the basis of street work. When you're apprehending fugitives, you're having to deal with conducting an investigation, you're having to deal with the victims, you're having to deal with the police and the Federal agencies that worked the original case, you're having to develop confidential sources, you're having to work with family members. And a lot of the times, a key is being able to work with family members. It's a terrible situation for many, many families whose loved one is a fugitive. And the family is caught in the middle of this and of course you have to be empathetic to the family and understand, not to treat them like criminals. Now obviously some families do try to harbor, aid, and abet the fugitive, and they end up getting charges filed against them. But in a great many cases, it's really a situation of having to convince the family that we're not out to hurt this fugitive. We're out to make sure they come safely into custody without getting hurt.
You still have a human element, in that you have two people pitted against each other and it's a chess game of finding this individual. There's a quote from Hemingway a lot of Marshals have hanging in their office: "There is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." That's actually true.
But in terms of technology, if I were to transport myself back, I would not recognize where we came from. It's so incredible to believe that in 1990 I was going out and catching fugitives and all I had was a car… a gun… and a warrant in hand. I had no cell phone, no GPS device. I had no laptop computer, I had none of the technology we have today. We still managed to catch fugitives. But the fact that we have BlackBerrys and can pull up a wanted poster from the field in our car and get immediate information and have handheld devices that show someone is wanted - the technology has absolutely exceeded our wildest expectations. It has really gone from horse and buggy to hovercraft. Every day cutting-edge tools are being developed that assist us. But ultimately, it is still going to boil down to a Deputy of the United States Marshal confronting a fugitive and saying, "You're under arrest."
Well, it was overwhelming to me when I walked onto the task force in 1994 as a new rookie. I was surrounded by some of the best fugitive hunters - state, local, and federal - in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the nation. So it can be very daunting. But drive is the key, and when the new people come in and they have the drive to be a good fugitive hunter, and actually follow the lead of the senior people, they're going to pick up tricks of the trade and will probably become really good fugitive hunters.
Not everyone focuses their career as a fugitive hunter on a task force. We do a lot of different things and many deputy marshals spend an entire career in a specialty that fits them, whether it be seized assets, civil process, court operations, judicial protection, there are specialized fields in every part of the Marshal Service.
I receive the drafts of the script, and I look at the concept that the writers have and the verbiage they've put in for the characters and I tune that to an actual day-to-day life of a U.S. Marshal. I make my notes and then I have a consultation with the writer. I really try to make it as realistic as I can with the concept that they have. I look at the small technical aspects. What would we really do? What would we really say? How would we really approach each individual situation? And that's where I weigh in.
Well, I hope so and I know the pilot is extraordinary. I think they did an excellent job on the pilot, and I really feel that this is going to be a really good series. I spent three days with the writing staff out in L.A. and saw how they actually put together ideas and concepts. They do gather some stuff from cases that we've worked, but I also see that many of the ideas and concepts were simply their ideas and their storylines. I will say that Jennifer Johnson as the executive producer and the entire writing staff are an incredibly talented group of people.
In real life, any time you're involved in a potentially violent situation such as the chases or the shootings or any of the really exciting parts of the show, the most obvious thing is the adrenaline rush. And that's one of the earmarks of the senior deputies and the more experienced police officers, task force officers: their ability to not get tunnel vision, to focus and be able to handle a very dynamic situation and get the job done safely.
You only gain that through actually having been there and through training. We try to do very realistic training. We do a lot of live-fire training, we do a lot of entry training. We worked with the cast on the firing range, actually shooting and actually going into an entry situation to portray to them how the body and mind react when suddenly faced with a life or death situation.
I think Annie Frost is a lot of Deputy Marshals, male and female, all rolled up into one. There are a lot of female Deputy U.S. Marshals now, a lot more than when I first started. It doesn't matter male or female, someone who's cut out and has the intuition, desire and the drive to actually look for someone and go arrest them, they're the best of the best. When somebody's got it they've got it.
And I think the rest of the cast from Jimmy and Luke and Daisy and Marco - they all really reflect the best of the Service and show a really crack team of Deputy Marshals and task force officers. I would say that the entire cast and characters of the show are culminations and epitomes of the best Deputy Marshals that I've ever worked with.
It's very interesting to see how a television show is designed and how it actually comes to fruition. That's been a learning experience for me. It's very fun to watch. Working with them and seeing the legitimacy of how much they want to make this realistic and what a class product that they want to produce has been very rewarding and I've been very appreciative of that.
Well I'd have to say yes in some respects, when reading one of the drafts and trying to recall my experience of what the fugitive has done in that situation. How did I handle that situation? Did I handle it in the right way? Would I have handled it differently? It really does give perspective and introspection, I guess you could say.