US marshals act like local police, but with more violence and less accountability

Detective Michael Pezzelle spent his last seven years on a suburban police force here amassing a body count. He was involved in shootings that wounded two people and killed five. Pezzelle faced no public consequences. He retired in 2018. Today, he trains police officers around the country to follow the kind of advice he shared on Instagram: “Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” During most of the years in question, [Pezzelle] was assigned to task forces run by the U.S. Marshals Service, an arm of the federal Justice Department. In recent years … marshals have been acting like local police – only with more violence and less accountability, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and the USA Today Network. In cities and towns across the country, the Marshals Service has set up task forces largely staffed by local law enforcement officers who get deputized as federal agents. About two-thirds of the agency’s arrests since 2014 were of people wanted on local warrants, not federal ones. On average, from 2015 to late 2020, marshals shot 31 people a year, killing 22 of them. By comparison, Houston police reported shooting an average of 19 people a year, killing eight. Philadelphia officers shot an average of nine people a year, killing three. Both departments employ roughly 6,000 officers, about the same number who serve in the Marshals Service and on its task forces. No marshal has ever been prosecuted after a shooting.

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