Since 1935, the FBI has provided information on current law enforcement issues and research in the field to the larger policing community through the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Just as the FBI has adapted over the years to address the changing needs of the criminal justice community, the Bulletin continues changing to reach a more mobile and widespread audience with decreasing resources.
Although the Bulletin ended its 80-year print run with the December 2012 issue, it continues to deliver peer-reviewed articles submitted by a wide range of authorities, including subject matter experts, national security liaisons, officers and agents in the field, and legal instruction advisors. These articles are now only available online at www.fbi.gov. Below is a brief history of the Bulletin and its effort to better understand and combat security threats facing the United States and to protect and defend its people.
In October 1932, the Bureau of Investigation began publishing a monthly magazine of fugitive write-ups titled Fugitives Wanted by Police. In October 1935, after the Bureau of Investigation became the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the publication was renamed the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin and added brief articles noting advances in police science to its fugitive write-ups. As the 1930s continued to witness a renaissance of American policing, marked by increased professionalism and the growth of the forensic sciences, the Bulletin served as a primary resource for disseminating information throughout the law enforcement community.
The Forties and Fifties
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States joined the Allied war effort against the Axis Powers. Like all segments of society, policing changed dramatically during the war years. Throughout the war era, the Bulletin provided law enforcement officials with information related to national defense, scientific aids, and police training. As the American economy expanded during the post-war years, unparalleled growth led to profound changes for the law enforcement community. In its pages, the Bulletin addressed the major issues of the time, including rising levels of juvenile delinquency and the police role in maintaining national security.
The Sixties and Seventies
In the 1960s, the Bulletin chronicled a decade of intense social change. In addition to advances in the forensic sciences, articles focused on such topics as the growing drug culture and police response to civil disturbances. During the 1970s, the Bulletin featured articles that promoted the evolving emphasis on education in policing, as well as changes in tactics and hiring practices embraced by the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
The Eighties and Nineties
During the 1980s, the Bulletin further established itself as a primary training resource for law enforcement administrators in agencies throughout the nation and the world. During the decade, the Bulletin featured articles on a broad array of scientific, technological, and strategic advances that would prove to have a dramatic affect on law enforcement. In the 1990s, the Bulletin embraced new technologies to reach a wider and more diverse readership. In 1991, it became one of the first law enforcement-related publications to go online and provided pdf versions of the printed magazine for viewing on the Internet.
Today and the Future
At the time of the last printed issue, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin was one of the most widely read law enforcement-related publications in the world. Every month, law enforcement administrators in more than 105 countries received copies. Given the high “pass-around” rate of the printed copies as well as its online presence, the Bulletin had an estimated readership of over 200,000 criminal justice professionals each month.
The Bulletin has become an extension of the work of the FBI Training Division. While the FBI hosts over 3,000 law enforcement specialists each year at the Training Academy at Quantico, many others within the criminal justice system have benefitted from the information shared by subject matter experts from all aspects of the law enforcement community who have provided information and instruction in the pages of the Bulletin.
Its mission remains strong—to inform, educate, and broaden the criminal justice community’s understanding of current issues facing law enforcement. For over 80 years, the Bulletin has served this community and will continue to do so in the challenging days ahead.