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 interstate crime.
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.
He 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.
During the early and mid-1930s several crucial decisions solidified the
Bureau's position as the nation's premier law enforcement agency. 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. 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.
Also 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
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.
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