The job presented a challenge, J. Jerome Bullock said, so when it came time for President Carter to nominate the new U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, Bullock let the right people know he was interested in the appointment.
A native of Georgia and a graduate of Howard University School of Law, Bullock, 29, got the presidential nomination, and his appointment was confirmed by the Senate. This week, in a brief ceremony at the U.S. District Court, Bullock formally took the oath of office, succeedign George K. McKinney whose appointment expired last month.
As U.S. marshal, Bullock will be paid $33,000 a year to supervise 162 deputy marshals whose duties include service of court papers, transportation of prisoners and protection of judges, jurors and government witnesses in both the District Court and D.C. Superior Court.
The D.C. office is the largest of 94 marshals' offices in the United States, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.
An associate legal counsel at the headquarters of the Marshals Service, Bullock takes over his new post in the wake of a Justice Department report that found deficiencies in management, supervision and training in the D.C. Marshal's office, low morale and an unusually high number of disciplinary proceedings against blacks.
The study, prompted by a civil rights suit brought by two deputy marshals, also found that the promotion panel of the D.C. marshal's office showed "a lack of racial sensitivity."
About half of all black deputy marshals who are employed in the Marshals Service work in the D.C. office, Bullock said. The result of the study will be his "charter" while he is in office, Bullock said. He will address the problems raised in the report, he said, but emphasized that he takes the job with no preconceived notions about problems in his new office.
A graduate of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Bullock served as an Army infantry officer from 1969 to 1972 and was assigned to security operations in Korea.
While he attended Howard Law School, Bullock was a law clerk in the Marshal's Service's Washington office. After earning his law degree in 1975, Bullock became an associate legal counsel for the service, representing marshals in the federal courts at administrative proceedings and providing legal advice to the service director.
The first U.S. marshals were appointed by George Washington following the passage by Congress of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which organized the system of federal courts.
The original law enforcement officers of the federal judicial system, the marshals were once described as the "handymen" of the federal administration.
At one time, the marshals took the census, supervised jails, were authorized to sell U.S. lands to satisfy judgments and had custody of vessels and goods confiscated by revenue agents.
U.S. Marshals are perhaps best known, however, as peace officers like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, whose job was to bring law and order to America's Western frontier.
U.S. marshals now are officers of the Department of Justice. Many of the duties once carried out by the marshals have since been delegated to other federal law enforcement agencies.