2009 Safety, Security and International Affairs

William Fallon and the Operation Falcon 2008 Team

Conducted Operation FALCON 2008, the largest law enforcement operation in American history, resulting in the arrests of 19,380 felons wanted for various, mostly violent, crimes.

History shows us that when local, state and federal law enforcement officials combine dedicated leadership and close cooperation to track down dangerous criminal suspects, success is virtually certain.

For Commander William Fallon of the U.S. Marshals Service and his team, such cooperation is a priority and was at the heart of one of the largest and most successful law enforcement operations in American history.

Known as Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally), the coordinated nationwide dragnet during one week in June of 2008 resulted in the arrest of 19,380 felons wanted in 47 states. The list of suspects included those wanted for murder, sex offenses, gang violence, narcotics and firearms violations.

FALCON 2008 team members seized more than $1.5 million in U.S. currency, 418 firearms, 34 vehicles, and over 5,300 pounds of narcotics. The fugitives arrested during this operation had a collective history of nearly 94,000 prior arrests.

Led by Fallon, Deputy Commander Thomas Thompson and Investigative Program Analyst Lance Eastwood, Operation FALCON brought together more than 5,000 law enforcement officers from 30 federal agencies, 162 state agencies and 1,425 local police departments and sheriffs’ offices.

“Operation FALCON is a perfect example of how law enforcement can and should work,” said then Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the summer of 2008. “FALCON 2008 shows us that when law enforcement from all levels joins forces, no fugitive can hide from justice for long.”

Wayne Pike of the U.S. Marshals Service said the 2008 effort was the fifth and most successful iteration of Operation FALCON, but he noted that Fallon and his team faced a number of obstacles, including serious budget constraints. He said this meant the federal government could only cover minimal amounts of law enforcement expenses such as travel, overtime, and some technology needs.

“Bill was instrumental in convincing local agencies to collaborate anyway,” said Pike. “Bill built a great coalition using his connections from previous FALCONs and motivating local agencies to get behind the effort. He visited local areas, participated in events, and personally met and talked with the people he would be working with.”

Fallon said that the previous operation in 2007 had been limited to just 28 cities while the 2008 sweep was nationwide.

“We went back to the grassroots, to all the departments across the country,” he said.

Fallon said many communities, including big cities, don’t always have the manpower and resources to follow through with the detective work needed to make the arrests. Sometimes, he said, they often don’t communicate with counterparts in their own states.

“There are thousands of open warrants, and departments just don’t have the staff or tools to look for these people. That is where we come in,” said Fallon.

Fallon said his team built an intra-agency Web site, created task force partnerships for geographic areas, provided briefings across the country and helped develop detailed case files.  He said the staff at the Marshals Service helped search databases on the outstanding warrants to find addresses and other information used to track down the fugitives.

“Once these local law enforcement agencies are on board and see how we work, they are all for it and we become partners for life,” said Fallon.

Michael Earp, Assistant Director of the Marshals Service, said Fallon and his team were “great in bringing people on board early, giving them plenty of time to get organized, and not just launching the operation without input.”

“These guys are totally committed, away from families seven days a week and working from 7 a.m.to 11 p.m.,” he said. “There were over 19,000 arrests and there were no deaths or serious injuries to the law enforcement personnel.”