Law enforcement agencies

Law enforcement agencies have been created in the US since the late 18th century, but do we actually know their missions and means of operations?

We all know government agencies like the FBI or CIA, but do we actually know what they focus on and how they operate? Law enforcement agencies have existed since the late 1700’s and that number continues to grow. There are agencies directed towards the general public, some for threats outside the country, and agencies designated to the armed forces. People know that law enforcement agencies operate with means of managing crime and stopping potential threats. However, there’s more depth to these agencies’ history, objectives, and priorities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was created in 1908 with the goal of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. Crime was higher than ever in the 20th century, prompting a higher need for a new government agency. Despite these issues, there was no systemic way to enforce the law throughout the broad American landscape. On a local level, police forces were poorly trained, politically appointed, and underpaid. Similarly, there were very few, thinly staffed federal agencies tasked to handle national crime and security.

Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921), Nepoleon Boneparte’s great-nephew, attorney general to President Theodore Roosevelt and official creator of the FBI.

These issues of crime were challenged by President Theodore Roosevelt and his second Attorney General, Charles Bonaparte. Bonaparte realized the struggle of upholding the law with no real squad of investigators to give commands to. This resulted in Bonaparte appointed members of the Secret Service to assist him, but they still reported to the Chief of the Secret Service instead of him. He brought this issue up but caused Congress to ban the loan of Secret Service Operatives to any federal department. Bonaparte took it upon himself to create his own force of investigators and, with Roosevelt’s blessing, quietly hired 34 investigators for his special agent force. on July 26, 1908, this new force was given its mission-conducting investigations for the Department of Justice-officially celebrating the creation of the FBI.

The FBI has priorities to protect the US from terrorist attacks including, foreign intelligence, espionage, and cyber operations. They also strive to combat both cyber-criminal activity and transnational criminal enterprises. It’s also the FBI’s job to fight significant white-collar and violent crimes as well as stop all levels of public corruption. This mission is accomplished through their DC headquarters, 56 field offices located across the US, and the 60 legal attachés throughout their worldwide embassies. (Welcome to — FBI)

The CIA seal features and eagle to symbolize strength and alertness, a shield to represent defense and the role of intelligence when defending the nation, and a 16-point compass rose to symbolize the collection of intelligence from across to globe.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the foundation of what we now call the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was created during World War II as America’s first global intelligence organization and was capable of coordinated espionage, covert action, and counterintelligence—all of which are pieces of today’s CIA. The OSS had successfully proved that having strategic intelligence was needed in times of both war and peace. The CIA was officially established after President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.

The objective of the CIA is to prevent rising threats and protect US national security. They accomplish this goal by collecting foreign intelligence, producing objective analysis, and conducting covert operations directed by the President. Rather than creating policies or policy recommendations, the CIA serves as an independent source of information for those who do. Although the CIA isn’t exactly a law enforcement organization, they work with the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense (DOD), and other law enforcement agencies on many complex issues ranging from counterintelligence to counterterrorism. (Central Intelligence Agency – CIA)

W. Stuart Symington (1901-1988) was the first Air Force Secretary for AFSOI from1947 to 1950.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) was founded Aug. 1, 1948 to provide investigative service to commanders of all Air Force activities. Their goal is to identify, investigate and neutralize criminal, terrorist, and espionage threats to Air Force and DOD personnel and resources. This command focuses on five priorities: develop and retain a force to meet Air Force needs, detect and provide early warning of worldwide Air Force threats, Identify and resolve any crime that challenges Air Force readiness or their good order and discipline, combat information and technology threats, and to both detect and defeat fraud that impacts the Air Force acquisitions or base-level capabilities.

In addition to the command’s headquarters at Andrews Air Force Base, Md, the OSI has eight field investigations regions, with seven on them being aligned with Air Force major commands. At the regional level, there are subordinate units called field investigations squadrons, detachments and operating locations. In total, OSI owns more than 230 units worldwide.

The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) was created in November of 1918 to detect and prevent crimes within territories occupied by the American Expeditionary Forces. Crimes committed by American soldiers and other nations against the Allies were reported through channels much like a civilian police force. In early 1942, crime investigations of military personnel were considered a “command function” that was to be conducted by local military police personnel. This meant that each commander was responsible for seeing that crimes committed within their realm of responsibility was investigated. The more the Army grew, so did the crime rate, prompting it to be harder for investigations to be help. Following World War II, the CID was centralized at the theater Army level, and, in September of 1969, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Agency was established.

Gregory D. Ford, first civilian director of CID.

The CID investigates and provides intelligence to proactively prevent crimes what will impact the operational readiness of the Army. They also conduct worldwide investigations of classified Army programs and sensitive activities. Their primary mission consists of conducting sensitive or serious crime investigations, collecting, analyzing and disseminating criminal intelligence, conducting protective service operations and maintaining Army criminal records.

The CID is an independent Federal Law Enforcement Agency that employs military and Civilians as federal Special Agents. They directly support the Army world-wide, through protective services for High-Risk Personnel. CID headquarters are located in Quantico, Virginia and operate throughout the world on and off military reservations and when appropriate, with local, state and other federal investigative agencies. (Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division)

Russell-Knox Building, Quantico, VA. NCIS Headquarters and main base of operations.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was originally chartered in 1882 as the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), became the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) in 1966 and NCIS in 1992. NCIS investigates all criminal and threat activity involving the US Navy and Marines. They fight are involved in matters involving criminal investigations, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and any cyber threats. Aid such as biometrics, forensics, polygraphs, and technical services are provided to help NCIS provide further investigations to close cases.

Along with their headquarters located aboard the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, NCIS has 14 additional field offices several subordinate offices around the world. (Home (

The Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), came into existence in 1915 by a Chief Intelligence Officer at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. It remained relatively unknown to the general public until the enactment of prohibition in 1920. After that point, the Coast Guard Intelligence grew in personnel and responsibility. In 1986, the Coast Guard intelligence and investigative sectors were split. In 1996, Coast Guard Investigations was replaced by the present-day CGIS.

Jeremy R. Gauthier, 5th civilian director of CGIS. Served as a former Marine and NCIS agent and has held two leadership roles prior to being assigned CGIS director in 2022.

The CGIS has law enforcement authority that is derived from Title 14 of the United States Code. This authority prompts Coast Guard special agents to conduct investigations of actual, alleged or suspected criminal activity, carry firearms, execute and serve warrants, and make arrests. The mission of CGIS is to support and protect the U.S. Coast Guard personnel, operations, integrity and assets worldwide. They prevent and defeat criminal threats through both objective and independent investigations. CGIS is comprised of a mix of active-duty military special agents, civilian special agents, and special agents who are members of the Coast Guard Reserve.

These special agents conduct operations along the lines of crimes relating to the maritime realm and Coast Guard missions, liaison operations, and investigate felony violations for the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They also follow up on criminal operations like maritime alien and drug smuggling, and environmental crimes. (Coast Guard Investigative Service (