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Modern Criminal Justice - Modernizing Criminal Justice

crime hoover vollmer police

Concerns over the rising crime rate led to the need for more accurate information on growing crime trends. In late 1929 the Bureau of Investigation began the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. The UCR provided nationwide statistics on seven key crimes—murder and manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny (theft of property), burglary, and motor vehicle theft. In 1979 arson was added. The UCR became the most used criminal statistics source in the nation into the twenty-first century.

In 1929 President Herbert Hoover created the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, chaired by U.S. Attorney General George Wickersham (1858–1936). Known as the Wickersham Commission, the group was charged with evaluating the criminal justice system, including police behavior, the condition of prisons, and the causes of crime. Issued in 1931, the findings of the fourteen commission reports did not support the existing system.

The commission found many of the police departments in the nation were corrupt, poorly operated, and poorly trained. The report also criticized the newly expanded prison system for not trying hard enough to rehabilitate or help its inmates. The reports provided specific recommendations on how to improve criminal justice in America, some of which were gradually adopted.

J. Edgar Hoover, hired by the BOI in 1917, became its director in 1924. Hoover, along with others including Los Angeles police chief August Vollmer (1876–1955), responded to the call for greater professionalism in law enforcement. At the federal level, Hoover turned the BOI into a highly trained law enforcement organization. He established the first fingerprint database and changed the name from BOI to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935.

As time passed, Congress gave the FBI more responsibility for fighting crime. After Prohibition ended in 1933 and it was no longer illegal to make or sell alcohol, crime groups switched J. Edgar Hoover, who became the director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, pointing to a crime map of the United States. (AP/Wide World Photos)
to gambling, extortion (to take money or property through threats or bodily harm), and vice (prostitution). In addition, fear of radical politics began to capture the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) as World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allied forces defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan) drew near in the late 1930s. He assigned J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to monitor rebellious activity in the United States.

Hoover dominated the world of federal crime law enforcement through his forty-eight years of leadership until his death in 1972. Throughout the twentieth century, the FBI remained at the forefront of technological innovations, including forensic science, fingerprinting, and blood work analysis.

At the local level, August Vollmer, the police chief of Los Angeles, contributed a great deal to the advancement of law enforcement. In Los Angeles in 1923, Vollmer established a modern crime laboratory. He introduced the use of patrol cars, motorcycles, and bicycles for patrol officers. Vollmer set up fingerprint and handwriting systems and a way of filing information about how crimes were committed. Innovative and visionary, Vollmer created a police school where criminology, the study of criminal behavior, was taught. Following Vollmer's lead, police departments nationwide improved training, introduced new technologies, and developed new investigative procedures.


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Modern Criminal Justice - Modernizing Criminal Justice