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U.S. Originals

Continued: FBI - The new deal


The 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression brought hard times to America. Hard times, in turn, created more criminals--and also led Americans to escape their troubles through newspapers, radio, and movies.

To combat the crime wave, President Franklin D. Roosevelt influenced Congress in his first administration to expand federal jurisdiction, and his Attorney General, Homer Cummings, fought an unrelenting campaign against rampant crime. One case highlighting the rampant crime included the swindling and murder of members of the Osage Indian tribe in Oklahoma for the rights to their oil fields.

Noting the widespread interest of the media in this war against crime, Hoover carried the message of FBI work through them to the American people. For example, in 1932, the first issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin - then called Fugitives Wanted by Police, was published. Hoover became as adept at publicizing his agency's work as he was at administering it. Prior to 1933, Bureau Agents had developed an esprit de corps, but the public considered them interchangeable with other federal investigators. Three years later, mere identification with the FBI was a source of special pride to its employees and commanded instant recognition and respect from the public. By the end of the decade, the Bureau had field offices in 42 cities and employed 654 Special Agents and 1141 Support Employees.

During the early and mid-1930s several crucial decisions solidified the Bureau's position as the nation's premier law enforcement agency. Responding to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, in 1932, Congress passed a federal kidnapping statute. Then in May and June 1934, with gangsters like John Dillinger evading capture by crossing over state lines, it passed a number of federal crime laws that significantly enhanced the Bureau's jurisdiction. In the wake of the Kansas City Massacre, Congress also gave Bureau Agents statutory authority to carry guns and make arrests.

The Bureau of Investigation was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation on July 1, 1932. Then, beginning July 1, 1933, the Department of Justice experimented for almost two years with a Division of Investigation that included the Bureau of Prohibition. Public confusion between Bureau of Investigation Special Agents and Prohibition Agents led to a permanent name change in 1935 for the agency composed of Department of Justice's investigators: the Federal Bureau of Investigation was thus born.

Contributing to its forensic expertise, the Bureau established its Technical Laboratory in 1932. Journalist Rex Collier called it "a novel research laboratory where government criminologists will match wits with underworld cunning." Originally the small laboratory operated strictly as a research facility. However, it benefitted from expanded federal funding, eventually housing specialized microscopes and extensive reference collections of guns, watermarks, typefaces, and automobile tire designs.

In 1935, the FBI National Academy was established to train police officers in modern investigative methods, since at that time only a few states and localities provided formal training to their peace officers. The National Academy taught investigative techniques to police officials throughout the United States, and starting in the 1940s, from all over the world.

The legal tools given to the FBI by Congress, as well as Bureau initiatives to upgrade its own professionalism and that of law enforcement, resulted in the arrest or demise of all the major gangsters by 1936. By that time, however, Fascism in Adolph Hitler's Germany and Benito Mussolini's Italy, and Communism in Josef Stalin's Soviet Union threatened American democratic principles. With war on the horizon, a new set of challenges faced the FBI.

The FBI is situated in the J. Edgar Hoover Building
The FBI is situated in the J. Edgar Hoover Building



Document Information
Source: Federal Bureau Of Investigation FBI
Last modified: 20070501
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