SIDNEY – Chris Brown, a detective with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, was deputized Wednesday afternoon to serve on a United States Marshals Service strike team tasked with apprehending some of the nation’s most dangerous fugitives.
Peter Tobin, the United States marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, visited the Sheriff’s Office to administer Brown’s oath. Brown has been a task force officer since 2014 and is required to take the oath every two years.
Two other members of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff John Lenhart and Detective Brad Koverman, also have been special deputy marshals since 2014. Their terms are set to expire later this year.
The special deputies are members of the Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team, which is charged with arresting some of the most dangerous fugitives in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and the surrounding areas.
“It’s rough,” Lenhart said. “I mean rough. They get into the worst of the worst.”
Working with the marshals is the most rewarding work in policing, Tobin said, but also the most dangerous. In the almost six years since Tobin became a marshal in March 2014, the Southern District of Ohio has had four deputy marshals and one special deputy killed in the line of duty.
“When you go into situations like they go into on a routine basis, this is real cop business,” Lenhart said. “These are bad dudes.”
Approximately 30 police departments and sheriff’s offices in the Southern District of Ohio provide officers to the SOFAST task force, donating manpower to the Marshals Service. They’re the best of the best, Tobin said, and respond anytime day or night to apprehend fugitives.
“They hit the bricks at 6 in the morning, wake these guys up before they know what’s going on, which alleviates a lot of uses of force that we would have if we did it later in the day,” Tobin said.
The special deputies from Shelby County respond once or twice a week to assist in apprehending fugitives.
“Every day is a new adventure,” Brown said, “the different locations we may go into, the different type of warrants, arrest warrants, that are out there.”
Shelby County has supplied special deputies to the Marshals Service for approximately eight years, Lenhart said. The county also houses 36 federal prisoners at the Shelby County Jail who are awaiting trial.
“Because of the marshals, we generate $1.2 million a year holding federal inmates and transporting them,” Lenhart said.
Though the federal prisoners are some of the most dangerous, Chief Deputy Jim Frye, said the Shelby County Jail doesn’t have many problems with them as they tend to be on their best behavior while going through the criminal justice system.
“They are some of the worst of the worst, but they don’t cause problems for us like our local inmates do,” Frye said. “They’re really good to work with. They abide by the rules.”
Working with the Marshals Service provides more to the Sheriff’s Office than just a source of revenue, Lenhart said. The marshals have vast resources to help Shelby County law enforcement capture fugitives, and the work they do throughout the region helps reduce crime locally.
“Everything that happens in the Dayton area or the Columbus or Cincinnati area – drugs, criminals, whatever – it touches us up here,” Lenhart said.
Tobin has 21 deputy marshals and 10 civilian staff in the Southern District of Ohio. In addition to making arrests, the Marshals Service also is involved with security for federal judges, federal courthouse security, storing and auctioning forfeited property, transporting individuals and witness protection.
The only task the special deputies assist with is apprehending fugitives.
“The marshals and the sheriffs have worked together for hundreds of years,” Lenhart said. “That kind of relationship is solid and goes back hundreds of years.”
Lenhart and Tobin have known each other for close to 40 years, they said. Lenhart previously was Tobin’s boss when they worked together at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Tobin said he wishes more sheriff’s offices cooperated with the Marshals Service as much as Shelby County does as their help is vital in making arrests.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than getting a violent fugitive off the streets,” Tobin said.
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