Marshals Service turns to data for efficiencies

The U.S. Marshals Service has been dealing with short staffing for the past several years, and while it’s trying to hire more people, it’s also looking for other solutions. That’s why it’s turning to data to find inefficiencies in its business processes and correct them.

“We believe that the data reveals all and that as we get into the data, we can better manage our system, because the data is a reflection of the past typically,” Donald Washington, Marshals Service director, said on Agency in Focus: Justice Department. “And so we look at that, and then we take that, and then determine how best to run the agency going forward. And that is also allied with this whole idea of bringing new ideas into the business.”

Washington said this is part of what he refers to as the “capture project” at the agency. In this project, operational personnel are paired with software developers who map agency processes. That software then uncovers inefficiencies.

Aside from that, the Marshals Service has also begun increasing the number of classes going through its academy in order to move more trainees into its workforce. That training happens in Glencoe, Georgia in two phases over a period of 24 to 25 weeks, Washington said.

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The first phase teaches new recruits the basics of law enforcement, such as the basics of the legal system and proper police procedures.

The second phase teaches the specifics of being a U.S. Marshal, as opposed to any other type of law enforcement officer. For example, this is when they learn about operating a cell block, escorting prisoners, and conducting investigations involving fugitives.

As with almost every other component of the Justice Department, Washington said it’s primarily the mission that attracts prospective employees.

“When it’s all said and done, these are law enforcement officers who are sworn to uphold the Constitution and to enforce the law. That all by itself is a draw for most of our employees,” he said. “When it’s said and done, they understand that they will become deputy US Marshals, and they will have these long standing missions of going out and apprehending fugitives, bringing them to justice, protecting judges.”

Washington said the service is currently only short by about 350 deputies, but the problem is compounded by an increase in the amount of work.

“If I could go back briefly to 2010, there was probably a level of equivalence between workload and available staff. Beginning in 2011, and forward, the workload continued to either be the same or increase. But our staff numbers went down,” Washington said. “And so we asked our folks over the years from 2011 forward to do more work, if you will. And of course, they’ve met the challenge because they are rock-steady performers. But when we get to 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, we get to the point where we’re asking our folks to perform a lot of work, a lot more work than is able to be performed in a 24 hour period. So what we’re trying to do is correct that by getting our numbers back in sync with the workload.”

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