Here is some insight to several issues regarding how policy paved the way to federal authority in conducting investigations and prosecuting cases. The roles of law enforcement dating back to the “Watch and Ward” system typically entailed protecting communities and each other’s neighbors. As communities grew and jurisdictions were formed, the need for standardized policing began evolving.
As public policy began to take shape through the twentieth century and times were changing globally, it was determined that local jurisdictions could only handle so much. The need for federal investigators became relevant as bills and policies of the country were formed. As federal crime bills came into effect, they needed federal authority to enforce the policies. The timeline in the text begins with examples from 1914 through 2008 (Marion and Oliver, 2011).
Another portion to focus on in this discussion is the steps to creating and implementing policy. The steps are not the point of this post but considering how to enforce new legislation or policy must be mentioned. Specifically, once a law is in place, the determination of which federal agency will have jurisdiction over individual or whole pieces must be taken into account. This includes committees to regulate the policy within its function or form and ensure the enforcement of the policy is being handled correctly by monitoring the progression.
Specific events leading to the growth of the federal law enforcement really began taking off in the 1960’s. Of course prohibition in the 20’s provided the road map for action and enforcement procedures including teaching investigative tactics. This in turn provided the need for regulation and enforcement.
In 1968, the assassinations of high profile figures such as President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King were instrumental in reaching out into American cities with money for public safety needs and a way for reportable statistics to be sent back to D.C. for evaluation of process and controls. This fell under the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act.
Another high profile involvement of the federal authorities was the war on drugs and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Again, more money flowed into communities for education, safety, enforcement, legal structure, and interdiction capabilities on a federal level.
The Crime Control Act and the Brady Handgun Control Act set the stage for serious funding to mandates. This was similar to the way the war on drugs campaign was rolled out as far as mission and funding but these two set the precedence on how federal law enforcement would create a nexus between local laws and federal laws with the power to investigate nationally. An example from personal knowledge is trafficking firearms even if the crime is committed in one state. Since a gun is assembled or pieces are manufactured in different states, the federal authorities can invoke powers over a local gun case under Interstate Commerce laws. The strict policy on firearms during the Clinton years saw more prosecution of gun crimes because of the “assault weapons ban” signed into legislation, which later expired. At that time, public policy was to be strict on “gun laws” and federal authorities were needed to set the example and investigate the crimes for prosecution.
The most recent example of an event creating federal level law enforcement charters, missions, and policies to promote and further federal policy was the Patriot Act of 2001. Far reaching powers capable by only funding available from federal levels broadened abilities and authority. This reach went far beyond what the reach of the 4th Amendment scope was intended and implemented out “in the name of national security.” Keeping Americans safe was the priority of the policy and continues to be however; the Patriot Act continues to expand on its own scope legitimizing its purpose one save at a time.
Marion, N.E., & Oliver, W.M. (2011). Public Policy of Crime and
Criminal Justice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.