Law Enforcement Assistance Administration

Introduction

The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) is a defunct federal office that existed between 1968 and 1982. The agency came into force after the formulation of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (United States., & National Criminal Justice Reference Service (U.S.), 1972). The organization became an important part of the United States Department of Justice (DOL). LEAA preceded the Office of Law Assistance, but it was replaced by the Office of Justice Assistance, Research, and Statistics (National Archives, n.d.). Today, the organization that conducts LEAA’s initial function is the Office of Justice Programs (OJS) after LEAA’s immediate predecessor was abolished in 1984. This report explores LEAA.

The History of LEAA

The creation of LEAA began in 1965 when the DOL formed the Office of the Law Enforcement Assistance (OLEA) as a federal initiative to assist law enforcement endeavors in the United States. However, in 1967, the President’s Commission on Law and the Administration of Justice recommended an overhaul of the OLEA (Feucht & Zedlewski, 2007. The President’s Commission was tasked with the duty to examine the issue of public safety in the U.S. (Feucht & Zedlewski, 2007). As such, the Commission explored the question of how the federal government could handle the issue of crime and public safety in the country (Feucht & Zedlewski, 2007). This issue was brought about by the tumultuous situation of the 1960s. Throughout the 1960s, the country was confronted with the Civil Rights movement that also saw one of its architects, Martin Luther King Jr. killed by a sniper bullet in 1968 (Andrews & Gaby, 2015). The civil unrest that came after King’s assassination caught the attention of the federal government. During the same decade, Americans lost one of its finest leaders, President John. F. Kennedy. Thus, President Lyndon Johnson vowed to ensure the federal government’s leadership on the fight against crime. Thus, the Commission introduced many resolutions that included the formation of a federal body that would assist local and state law enforcement communities to do their work in an efficient manner. Consequently, LEAA was born.

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LEAA’s core objective was to help the federal government to achieve its security goals and vision. The Commission set seven specific goals that the federal government and the police community should achieve. The first of the federal government’s objectives would be to find a working solution to crime. Crime prevention had been a major issue in the 1960s and still is today (Feucht & Zedlewski, 2007). The prevention of offenses does not always mean the war on crime because the two terminologies mean different things all together. By aspiring to prevent crime, the federal government expected LEAA to work with the local and state police departments in finding amicable solutions to the crime problem. LEAA could assist the local and state police communities to achieve the first objective by helping them to install security lights in various crime spots in order to prevent criminals in those areas from committing crimes during the night.

The Commission’s second goal was to find workable ways of dealing with convicts and offenders. There had been no concerted effort in the way the federal government or other U.S. police divisions dealt with lawbreakers and criminals (Feucht & Zedlewski, 2007). The Commission opined that LEAA could spearhead the initiative of creating a concerted national effort to transform the way the DOL was treating offenders. Before the formation of the Commission was realised, the offenders were subjected to various inhumane acts, which also operated in an environment full of racism and other social prejudices.

The Commission’s third, fourth, and fifth objectives were to eradicate unfairness and injustice, upgrade police personnel, and conduct research so as to discover effective means to control crime. In the 1960s, there was perennial unfairness and injustices because many Americans were incarcerated based on gender, ethnic or racial prejudices. Many blacks found themselves in jail because of the color of their skin and not because they committed any offense. The Civil Rights Movements led to a vicious police crackdown on peaceful protesters, mostly African Americans. For this reason, the federal government sought to drive the reforms of the DOL by creating LEAA. Secondly, during the 1960s, many local and state police departments were ill-equiped and ill-prepared to fight crime. Therefore, there was a need for the DOL to upgrade its personnel. The improvement of the DOL staff would include transforming the training tactics and buying the required equipment. Lastly, there was a high need for informed improvement in law enhanced by the transformation of the way the police combated crime. Therefore, research is necessary to provide the data that would pinpoint the areas that would need reforms.  

The sixth and the seventh objectives that LEAA needed to attain included necessary and appropriate funding to achieve its goals and community or society participation in its aims. Indeed, the local and state police departments needed financial resources to improve their operation, and they still need it to this date. Community and multi-stakeholder participation in the war on crime was and remain relevant to this day.

The federal government stopped funding the LEAA in 1982. The federal funding was stopped because its appropriation failures. However, the LEAA is credited with the creation of various transformations that include the elimination of the mandatory height requirement for women intending to join the police force back in 1973. Other effects include changes to the way the police force operates these days that include community policing and better training of police officers (Miller, Hess & Orthmann, 2013). The agency also started the victim witness movement. It also enabled technological advancements such as the improvement of the forensic application of the DNA technology and bulletproof vests.  

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How LEAA Did Its Work and What It Did

LEAA influenced local and state police departments’ policies through a series of block auctioning funding programs. LEAA’s funding priorities were in tandem with Congress’s desire to enable local and state police departments to address crime because the crime was a local and state governments’ issue (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d.). LEAA allocated much of its financial resources among the states in the form of block funds. About 85% of the increases in appropriation went to states whose allocation plans had received LEAA approval. Federal grants could cover up to 90% of the law enforcement programs except for construction activities that were limited to 50%. Indian tribes could receive grants of up to 100% (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d.). Then, LEAA would require states to give a proportion of their federal funding to the local police departments about the percentage of state and local law enforcement expenditure in any financial year (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d.). 

LEAA funded various projects using its discretionary fund. From 1972 to 1977, LEAA funded The High Impact Anti-Crime Program to a tune of $156 million (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d.). This program was one of the most intensive efforts by the law enforcement community to minimize the incidences of stranger-to-stranger misdemeanors by a margin of 5% in two years and 20% in five years (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d.). The program would operate in 8 American cities. 

TASC (The Treatment Alternative to Street Crime) was another initiative that LEAA funded using the discretionary fund. In the TASC program, the police departments would identify drug abusers in the American criminal justice arrangement and enable them to receive appropriate rehabilitation treatment (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d., p. 12). Further, the law enforcement agencies tracked the drug abusers’ progress to ensure that they were successfully re-socialized. Thus, TASC’s core objectives were to mitigate or prevent any future drug-related criminal activities. In such a way, LEAA funded TASC as a way to stop or prevent crime and its related social costs by stemming drug-related recidivism. 

LEAA also funded the Pilot Cities Program (PCP). The PCP started in 1970 to establish a real world kind of a setting where a comprehensive research, testing, development, and demonstration activities and programs could be advanced (The Staff of the United States Accounting Office, n.d., pp. 12-13). LEAA gave out awards in eight American cities. The program’s design involved installation of law enforcement teams as well as criminal justice specialists in medium-sized towns and cities. The law enforcement groups were supposed to work as independent police units across the county and city boundaries to introduce some of the best technologies and techniques and facilitate the development of the best once. LEA funded more than 98 demonstration projects that received their funding through the teams’ efforts or funded wholly by DOL/LEAA.

In 1969 alone, LEAA coordinated various federal activities with other federal government’s programs. LEAA’s leadership was vital in coordinating major federal aid plans that were concerned with crime and delinquency control (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). LEAA facilitated the implementation of the Juvenile Delinquency Act Program that operated under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Model Cities Programs, among other activities (Rogovin & Velde, 1969).  LEAA also exchanged programs with local and state planning boards and operated joint funding of some crime-prevention programs (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). LEAA also cooperated with the Organized Crime units of the DOL and organized the design of the crime intelligence system. LEAA negotiated with the FHA (the Federal Highway Administration) in handling various but specific parts of the Highway Safety Act in order to harmonize them with states’ ones (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). The organization also cooperated with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to chart a way forward on the issue of problem-definition in order to develop programs that would help find solutions to law enforcement within the Indian community (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). Thus, LEAA worked with various agencies to discover ways to fight crime by cooperating with other states, local or federal crime prevention and mitigation programs.

The National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (NILECJ)

NILECJ was LEAA’s leading research center. The Institute managed and studied about the various unknown aspects of crime prevention, crime, and the American criminal justice system (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). The Institute utilized billions of dollars to research for the country’s defense and space exploration and other issues that had little to do with crime (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). However, NILECJ was the central research organization of LEAA. The institute did its work by making research contracts and grants with public agencies, individuals, colleges and universities, and individuals to conduct research on various matters that relate to crime.

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NILECJ had several research centers that corresponded to different issues of interest. The Center for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation conducted and sponsored research activities that contributed to understanding the way crime prevention could be enhanced (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). The Center for Criminal Justice Operations facilitated research and conducted research to determine various ways that the law enforcement community could boost the efficiency of their operations (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). The Center for Law and Justice did research on fairness, effectiveness, and appropriateness of the existing criminal laws (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). At the same time, the Center for Demonstrations and Professional Services conducted researches on the professional services that related to the use of various technologies and the general law enforcement operation (Rogovin & Velde, 1969). Apparently, each research center had its own area of specialty that enabled LEAA to help the law enforcement departments to arrest crime. With each research center at work, the local and state police departments understood the various spectrums of crime and crime prevention in their locality.  

Conclusion

LEAA was one of the most influential organizations. It existed between 1968 and 1982 after the federal government stopped funding its operations. The agency came into force in 1968. The organization became a significant member of the U.S. Department of Justice. During its time of existence, LEAA transformed the U.S. law enforcement agencies by introducing various changes to the DOL. LEAA helped the federal government to eliminate the mandatory height requirement for women intending to join the police force because the rule locked out many women. LEAA introduced the concept of public participation that has given forth community policing. It also enhanced the training and equipping of the DOL personnel to transform the way they did their work. The agency also launched the victim witness movement. The technological advancement such as the improvement of the forensic application of the DNA technology and bulletproof vests is also LEAA’s initiative.

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