Course: Policing / Ethics
The Wickersham Commission was a national study group appointed by President Herbert Hoover in 1929 to investigate the U.S. criminal justice system.
The Wickersham Commission, also known as the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, was a study group established by President Herbert Hoover in 1929 to investigate the U.S. criminal justice system. The commission was named after its chairman, George W. Wickersham, a former Attorney General of the United States.
The commission was created in response to concerns about rising crime rates and public dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system. The commission was tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of the system, including the police, courts, and correctional institutions, and making recommendations for improvements.
Over the course of its six-year investigation, the Wickersham Commission conducted extensive research and held public hearings in cities across the United States. The commission heard testimony from a wide range of experts, including law enforcement officials, judges, lawyers, and social scientists.
The commission’s final report, issued in 1931, was a landmark document that called for significant reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system. The report recommended improvements to police training and management, the establishment of a national crime laboratory, the creation of a federal agency to coordinate law enforcement efforts, and the development of probation and parole systems to reduce the use of imprisonment.
The Wickersham Commission’s report also highlighted concerns about racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, particularly in the use of capital punishment. The commission recommended that states establish uniform guidelines for the use of the death penalty and that the federal government limit its use to cases involving certain types of crimes, such as treason and espionage.
The commission’s findings and recommendations had a significant impact on the criminal justice system, leading to the establishment of many of the reforms proposed in the report. The creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935, for example, was a direct response to the commission’s recommendation for a national law enforcement agency.
The Wickersham Commission’s report also contributed to a broader public awareness of the need for improvements to the criminal justice system. The commission’s emphasis on the importance of professionalism, efficiency, and fairness in law enforcement and the courts helped to promote greater accountability and transparency in the system.
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Last Modified: 03/14/2023