In 1965, the Office of Law Enforcement Assistance was created in the U.S. Department of Justice. This was the predecessor to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which was established as a result of the work of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.

In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice called for a revolution in the approach to crime. The commission developed seven specific goals that are relevant in the twenty-first century:

1. Prevent crime.

2. Adopt new ways of dealing with offenders.

3. Eliminate injustice and unfairness.

4. Upgrade personnel.

5. Conduct research to find new and effective ways to control crime.

6. Appropriate the necessary funds to accomplish the goals.

7. Involve all elements of society in planning and executing changes in the criminal justice system.

The commission further emphasized the need to consider law enforcement and criminal justice as a system and the need to improve its ability to prevent and reduce crime. The commission advocated maximizing the use of new technology, basing policy on proven facts, and maintaining American democratic values of fairness and respect for the individual (U.S. Department of Justice 1997, 3).

The commission attracted nationwide attention because of the status of its members, the growing public concern about crime, and the sharp division among commission members on some controversial topics. Congress responded to the report by enacting the landmark Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. This act created the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which was the first comprehensive federal programmatic response to state and local crime control efforts, and provided extensive financial support. This support came in the form of block grants based on population and categorical grants. These funds were to be directed toward reducing crime by improving local criminal justice systems: police, courts, and corrections. One of the LEAA administrators, Donald Santarelli, observed that:

The creation of LEAA was a direct response to the commission’s report. Its creation signaled the makings of a significant change in the federal government’s attitude towards crime, avoiding the federalization of state and local crime and assumption of operational responsibility, and with great respect for the dual federalism of government responsibility, it sought to strengthen the states rather than assume federal enforcement responsibility (U.S. Department of Justice 1997,4).

To achieve this objective, the notion of criminal justice planning was introduced to the country. Heretofore, planning in criminal justice was virtually nonexistent. With the passage of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, LEAA was authorized to provide funds to create a “state planning agency” in each state that would have as its primary function the responsibility to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for the improvement of law enforcement throughout the state. The act also authorized the states to make grants from a population-based block grant allocation to units of local government to carry out programs and projects in accordance with the planning effort to improve law enforcement (Hagerty 1978, 173).

Over time, it became clear that law enforcement had to be considered in the context of a larger criminal justice system consisting of police, the courts, and correctional systems. This was recognized in the 1973 and 1976 reauthorizations in which the role of LEAA was broadened to include assistance to all components of the criminal justice system (Hagerty 1978, 175).

The act also required the LEAA to develop a discretionary grant program and to establish a National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. This component of the LEAA had responsibility for encouraging research in criminal and juvenile justice.

In addition to the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, the legislation created the Bureau of Justice Assistance to administer the block grant program and the Bureau of Justice Statistics to capture data about the system. In 1974, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was created as a part of LEAA through separate legislation known as the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

One major office was created that was not congressionally mandated. The Office of Criminal Justice Education and Training was established in 1975 to administer the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP). This program was initially funded at $6.5 million and grew to $40 million per year throughout the 1970s. LEEP was the most popular LEAA program from a congressional perspective. At its height, the program supported more than one hundred thousand students through grants and loans in over a thousand colleges and universities. Other training and education programs developed and managed in the Office of Criminal Justice Education and Training included fellowships for graduate study, the Joint Commission on Criminology Education and Standards, the National Advisory Commission on Higher Education for Police Officers, and the National Consortium on Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The office also supported projects to develop and improve criminal justice manpower planning through such projects as the national manpower survey of the criminal justice system.

In 1982, federal funding for LEAA was withdrawn. However, it would be inaccurate to consider this the demise of LEAA. This agency can be credited with many accomplishments that still have a major influence on crime control policy today. Also, the Justice Assistance Act of 1984 created separate agencies to continue many of the same programs associated with LEAA. With the Crime Bill of 1994, the Office of Justice Programs garnered more resources and influence than at any other time in history. Six presidential appointees administer the programs of the Office of Justice Programs, headed by an assistant attorney general. The Office of Justice Programs provides the umbrella agency for the following agencies: National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Office of Victims of Crime (U.S. Department of Justice 1996, 2).

In a gathering of more than fifty current and former U.S. Department of Justice criminal justice administrators in July 1996, the group agreed that among its most significant accomplishments, LEAA:

• Encouraged for the first time state-level planning in criminal justice by spurring the formation of criminal justice state planning agencies (SPAs).

• Contributed to law enforcement professionalism by providing higher education opportunities. (A significant majority of current criminal justice leaders around the country are LEEP alumni.)

• Laid the foundation for the development of standards for police, courts, and correctional agencies.

• Encouraged the use of targeted strategies (for example, the establishment of career criminal units in prosecutors’ offices).

• Launched the victim witness movement, encouraging prosecutors and other parts of the criminal justice system to undertake victim-witness initiatives.

• Enabled technological advances, including the development of bulletproof vests and forensic applications of DNA technology (U.S. Department of Justice 1996, 3).

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