By Debbie Adams
On December 18, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Vinton Police Chief Thomas L. Foster to serve as the United States Marshal for the Western District of Virginia. The next step is confirmation by the United States Senate, which Foster believes will take place possibly at the end of January.
“I am extremely honored to receive President Trump’s consideration and nomination, and I feel very blessed to be moving forward in this process,” said Foster. “If confirmed, my office will be here in Roanoke at the Poff Federal Building. So, it is a pretty amazing opportunity!”
Founded in 1789, the US Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency, often serving the nation in critical, but unseen, ways.
It is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, involved in virtually every federal law enforcement initiative. Presidentially appointed US marshals direct the activities of 94 districts – one for each federal judicial district.
The duties of the US Marshals Service include protecting the federal judiciary; they are empowered to protect federal judges, other court officials, witnesses, jurors, visiting public, prisoners, and other threatened persons.
They are also tasked with apprehending federal fugitives. The US Marshals Service is the federal government’s primary agency for fugitive investigations. The Marshals have the broadest arrest authority among federal law enforcement agencies. They provide assistance to state and local agencies in locating and apprehending their most violent fugitives. The Marshals arrest on average 347 fugitives every day.
The US Marshals “15 Most Wanted” fugitive program draws attention to some of the country’s most dangerous and high-profile fugitives. These fugitives tend to be career criminals with histories of violence, and they pose a significant threat to public safety.
Marshals work with the international law enforcement community to apprehend fugitives abroad as well as to seek foreign fugitives living or residing in the United States.
They also manage and sell seized assets acquired by criminals through illegal activities.
The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program plays a critical role in disrupting and dismantling illegal enterprises, depriving criminals of the proceeds of illegal activities, deterring crime and restoring property to victims.
The Marshals Service serves as the primary custodian of seized property for the program. The Marshals identify and evaluate assets and manage and dispose of the majority of the assets seized and forfeited through the program.
The Marshals manage a wide array of assets, including real estate, commercial businesses, cash, financial instruments, vehicles, jewelry, art, antiques, collectibles, vessels and aircraft. Proceeds generated from asset sales are used to operate the program, compensate victims and support various law enforcement efforts.
US Marshals are responsible for the confinement and transportation of federal prisoners who have not been turned over to the Bureau of Prisons. The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) manages the coordination, scheduling, and secure handling of prisoners in federal custody, transporting them to detention facilities, courts and correctional institutions across the 94 judicial districts via a network of aircraft, buses, vans and cars.
JPATS is the largest transporter of prisoners in the United States, supporting the federal judiciary, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and US Marshals district offices.
On average, JPATS manages more than 1,100 prisoner movements a day. Prisoner movements take place for a variety of reasons, such as to testify at a trial, serve a sentence at a facility or transfer between institutions. Prisoners are also moved for pretrial hearings, competency examinations, medical studies and observations.
The agency also operates the Witness Security Program, sometimes referred to as the “Witness Protection Program.”
The Witness Security Program provides for the security, safety and health of government witnesses and their authorized family members, whose lives are in danger as a result of their cooperation with the U.S. government. Witnesses and their families typically get new identities with documentation.
The Witness Security Program has successfully protected approximately 18,900 participants from intimidation and retribution since the program began in 1971.
The Western District of Virginia comprises the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Appomattox, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Buckingham, Campbell, Carroll, Charlotte, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Cumberland, Dickenson, Floyd, Fluvanna, Franklin, Frederick, Giles, Grayson, Greene, Halifax, Henry, Highland, Lee, Louisa, Madison, Montgomery, Nelson, Orange, Page, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Pulaski, Rappahannock, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth, Tazewell, Warren, Washington, Wise, and Wythe.
Chief Foster has worked in law enforcement for more than 33 years and was appointed as Chief of Police in Vinton in March 2016.
Prior to that, he served as the Deputy Chief of Police at the Virginia Polytechnic and State University Police Department and as an Area Commander and Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Virginia Department of State Police.
He earned his B.A. from Mary Baldwin University and his Master’s in Public Administration from Virginia Tech. He also holds graduate certificates from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.
During his tenure with the Virginia State Police, Foster supervised both uniform patrol operations and criminal investigative units. He also has served as the department’s public information officer and an internal affairs investigator in the Bureau of Professional Standards. Foster has served as an adjunct professor in the Administration of Justice program at Virginia Western Community College.
In 2002, Foster received the Virginia State Police Superintendent’s Award of Merit, the second highest honor award by the Virginia Department of State Police. He was the creator of the state police’s “School Watch” Safety and Security Crime Prevention Program.
In 2017 Chief Foster was named Vinton Employee of the Year, an honor given to employees who serve the town and its citizens in an exceptional manner by exemplifying outstanding service, while exhibiting a positive and supportive attitude.
Some of the outstanding traits displayed by Chief Foster mentioned on the nomination forms submitted anonymously by fellow town employees were that he:
- Promotes a positive attitude even during challenging times
- Uplifts employees and gives everyone praise
- Always has an open-door policy and is willing to sit down and talk whenever something needs to be discussed
- Is “one of us”
- Has worked very hard to bring the morale of the department up and to get employees what they need
- Gets along with all town departments and is frequently asked to sit in on committees or consider issues with them as a vital member of the town’s leadership team
- Has been able to influence each town department through work performance and leadership skills
- Is great with citizens, “always ready to lend an ear or a hand”
- Always gives 100 percent
- Works many extra hours, including weekends
- Performs many kind acts and unselfishly puts others first
- Is an innovator, incorporating new ideas for the department and the town
- Joins his officers in handling calls for service as a part of the team
- Shows bearing, tact, and sound judgment while making both routine and critical decisions
Chief Foster has been recognized on many occasions by Vinton Town Council for his contribution to securing numerous grants for the Vinton Police Department as well.
Chief Foster’s father, Sheriff O. S. Foster, served five terms as the sheriff of Roanoke County from 1967-1987 and was also a Virginia State Trooper.
Foster’s wife, LeAnne, is a Special Education teacher with Roanoke County Schools. They have two children, Logan and Reagan.