The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The main source of investigative resources for the United States Department of Justice is called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, usually called the FBI for short. The organization is funded by federal dollars and is responsible for more than 200 federal crime categories. Federal crimes are those that involve people and actions that usually cross state lines and may threaten the country's safety and security.
The FBI began in 1908 and was created while Theodore Roosevelt was president. It was first organized with a force of special agents by Attorney General Charles Bonaporte. It originally began as the Bureau of Investigation, and was not named the FBI until 1935. In the beginning, the people hired as agents were men who had experience as police officers or in other areas of law enforcement.
Most of the earlier investigations involved crimes relating to banking and land fraud, forms of enslavement, and extortion (illegally coercing someone to pay money). The FBI agents were also involved in investigations that included criminal matters related to the Ku-Klux-Klan (white-supremacy group who had a hatred for African-Americans and others), people crossing state lines to avoid arrest, and with those involved in transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.
Between 1912 and 1914, the FBI included about 300 special agents and another 300 office personnel working in field offices in major cities across the United States. Each field office was run by a special agent but the main FBI office was in Washington, DC. Later, the FBI set up offices along the border of Mexico to investigate and combat illegal smuggling.
Beginning in 1921 and lasting about 12 years, much of the public were frustrated with the FBI due to their enforcement of Prohibition (outlaw of alcohol). Many people were investigated and arrested due to crimes related to the production, sale, or distribution of alcohol throughout the country. The Prohibition Era led to organized crime developing and the FBI became respected again when they captured such famous criminals such as 'Machine Gun' Kelly, bank robber John Dillinger, and 'Baby Face' Nelson.
A reorganization of the FBI began in the 1920s when J. Edgar Hoover, just 26-years-old, became the new director. New policies were introduced, old polices were removed or changed, and he also established a much-needed training academy for new agents. Across the country, the different FBI offices were more coordinated with each other and a new communication system help the bureau fight crime. In addition, a new FBI Crime Lab was opened in 1932. Even today, it continues to perform crime scene searches, surveillance, fingerprint examinations, and other crime-solving services. The FBI Training Academy is in Quantico, Virginia.
For the next several decades, the FBI also became involved in cases related to spies, national intelligence, working with the public to catch the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, which sometimes changes, and investigations involving the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s and 1970s. They were severely criticized for illegal surveillance of innocent people like civil rights leader Martin Luther King and others.
There have been several other directors since Hoover, but today the FBI continues to be involved in the investigation and capture of the worst criminals in American history. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has the widest authority and jurisdiction of any federal law enforcement agency.
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