Sheriff of Camelot—Robert F. Kennedy and the war on organized crime
Kohler, Jeffrey J., II
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After the conclusion of the Prohibition era, federal law enforcement became largely indifferent toward organized crime in the United States. The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, specifically, were primarily focused on communism and other seditious activities. This apathy toward organized crime allowed gangsters and racketeers to flourish, benefitting from the postwar economic boom. Between 1957 and the late 1980s, the federal government underwent a fundamental shift in its stance toward organized crime. The impetus for these changes came in large part from the work of Robert F. Kennedy. While serving as counsel for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations from 1957 - 1959, Kennedy was exposed to the problem of organized crime. It was at this point he formulated a methodology that would come to define the United States' drive against organized crime for decades. Later, as Attorney General during the administration of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy sought to implement reforms to federal wiretap policies, immunity statutes, witness protection, and cooperation between local law enforcement and the Justice Department. Kennedy did not live to see all of these changes made, but ultimately his work provided the model for the federal government's efforts against organized crime today. Relying on government documents, hearings records, and extensive oral histories, this study concludes that while Kennedy's efforts failed to engender significant change in the short term, his legacy is defined by long term contributions to federal law enforcement which remain in effect to this day.