Review of the United States Marshals Service Discipline Process
Report No. I-2001-011
September 28, 2001
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Evaluation and Inspections Division, evaluated the discipline process in the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to determine whether discipline actions taken in response to substantiated misconduct allegations were consistent, timely, and in accordance with USMS policy.
The USMS discipline process consists of two phases--the investigation of misconduct allegations and the adjudication of substantiated allegations. Depending on the severity of an allegation, the OIG, the USMS Office of Internal Affairs (OIA), or a USMS district or division office conducts the investigation into the misconduct. If the allegation is substantiated, the investigation report is forwarded through the OIA to the USMS Human Resources Division (HRD) Employee Relations Team (ERT) for adjudication. The adjudication phase involves a review of the case by designated USMS management officials to determine the discipline action, which can range from an oral admonishment to removal.
From a universe of 560 misconduct cases adjudicated between FY 1998 and FY 2000, we selected 50 cases to review for consistency and timeliness. We found 25 cases where the consistency of the discipline or the degree of discipline imposed raised serious concerns, and the reasons for the final discipline decisions were not adequately documented. In 8 of the 50 cases, we also found no documented evidence in the employees' official personnel folders that discipline actions had been enforced.
In 14 of the 50 cases, we found significant periods of unexplained elapsed time that appeared to prolong case adjudication. The overall adjudication timeline for these 14 cases ranged from 89 days to 330 days, with unexplained elapsed time periods ranging from 61 days to 217 days. Because of incomplete or inaccurate information in case files and the automated database, ERT personnel could not reconstruct case events to account for these time periods.
Timeliness of case processing was also a problem in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program. We found that 66 percent of the misconduct cases in the ADR Program had exceeded the Program's established time limit of 60 days. The backlog of cases may be attributed in part to the types of cases accepted by the ADR Program and limited use of USMS employees trained as ADR facilitators. In addition, the ADR Program did not effectively use its automated database to track the status of cases.
We also found a need for improved coordination between the various USMS entities involved in the discipline process. During our interviews, officials from these entities expressed concern or uncertainty about specific discipline process responsibilities, procedures, timelines, and work quality. Some of the general concerns mentioned by these officials involved the need for (1) cross-training to better understand the information requirements of the various entities to process misconduct cases, (2) improving or centralizing oversight of the entire discipline process, (3) clearly defining responsibilities concerning discipline process duties, (4) improving the timeliness in the discipline process, (5) improving the exchange of information among the entities, and (6) improving the OIA's response for follow-up investigative requests.
We found that the HRD and the ERT had not fully developed and implemented performance standards for the adjudication of misconduct cases. The USMS Performance Management Program identifies performance measures related to the OIA's investigative phase of the discipline process. However, goals and measures for the ERT's adjudication phase of the discipline process are not included. As a result, identifying and evaluating strengths and weaknesses in the adjudication phase of the discipline process cannot be accomplished.
Finally, the USMS is not reporting all allegations of misconduct to the OIG as required by OIG policy. Prior to forwarding an allegation to the OIG, the OIA performs a "preliminary investigation" of the allegation. If the OIA determines that the alleged misconduct did not violate USMS policy or that enough information is not provided to warrant opening a formal investigation, the OIA considers the allegation "closed." In this instance, the allegation is not forwarded to the OIG for review. The OIA's FY 1998, FY 1999, and FY 2000 annual statistics show that 70, 93, and 76 misconduct allegations were classified as preliminary investigations and closed. These 239 misconduct allegations were not reported to the OIG. The allegations included firearms violations, discrimination complaints, fraud, and hostile work environment misconduct that require immediate or 48-hour reporting by the USMS to the OIG according to OIG policy. In addition, allegations for 16 of the 50 cases we reviewed were opened by the USMS as full investigations but were not reported to the OIG.
We made 12 recommendations to help the USMS improve its discipline process: