From the time Georgia was founded in 1733 until 1937, law enforcement in the state was the responsibility of local governments. In March 1937, at the request of Governor E. D. Rivers, the General Assembly passed Act 220 that established the Department of Public Safety, the first statewide law enforcement agency in Georgia.
Two divisions were created within the Department: a uniform division, the Georgia State Patrol; and a "plainclothes" division, officially designated the Division of Criminal Identification, Detection, Prevention, and Investigation. The initial charter authorized this division to maintain fingerprint and criminal history information and to employ agents as criminal investigators to assist local law enforcement officers throughout the state.
With the creation of the Department of Public Safety, certain designated crimes could be pursued more effectively through a concerted and coordinated statewide effort. Any criminal offense committed on state property or on state highways would henceforth come under the original jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety. In addition, the Division of Identification, Detection, Prevention and Investigation was authorized to assist in criminal investigations when requested to do so by local law enforcement officials or agencies.
In 1940, the name of the Division of Identification, Detection, Prevention and Investigation was changed officially to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
A significant development for Georgia law enforcement occurred in February of 1952 when the Fulton County Crime Laboratory became the State Crime Laboratory and part of the Department of Public Safety. It was the second statewide crime laboratory established in the United States. The founder and director of the Fulton County laboratory, Dr. Herman Jones, introduced forensic laboratory work to Georgia in the early 1940's while working with the Alabama Toxicology Laboratory. Dr. Jones' Fulton County position was transferred to the state and he continued as the laboratory director.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation experienced two major turning points in its professional development in the early 1970's. The first came in February of 1972 when Governor Jimmy Carter commissioned a task force to establish a master plan to implement a Criminal Justice Information System for Georgia. Criminal activity of all types was increasing dramatically across the state, and Governor Carter was convinced that more timely and accurate crime information would be extremely beneficial to state and local law enforcement agencies. On the recommendation of this task force, Governor Carter issued an Executive Order in June of 1972 creating the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC).
Since the GBI had the responsibility of maintaining criminal identification records, it was logical that the GCIC would become a division of the Bureau. When GCIC began operation in 1973 as part of the GBI, it became the focal point in Georgia for the collection, storage, rapid retrieval and dissemination of law enforcement and criminal justice related information.
The second turning point came when Governor Carter proposed extensive changes in the structure of the executive branch of state government that led to the introduction of the Executive Reorganization Act in the 1972 session of the Georgia General Assembly. As a result of passage of this Act and later amendments, on February 28, 1974, the GBI was made an independent agency separate from the Department of Public Safety.
The Reorganization Act established the organizational framework of the GBI that still exists today. That framework consists of three divisions, the Investigative Division, the Division of Forensic Sciences (state crime lab) and the Georgia Crime Information Center. Under this Act, the name of the GBI was changed to the Division of Investigation. However, the name change lasted only one year. Criminal justice officials and citizens alike had come to regard "Georgia Bureau of Investigation" as the only appropriate name for the state's criminal investigative agency.
The role of the GBI has expanded dramatically since its founding in 1937. It has faced many challenges in meeting the demands of providing up-to-date investigative, forensic sciences and crime information services and support to Georgia's entire criminal justice system. The GBI takes pride in the fact that it has evolved over the years into a respected and creative law enforcement organization with highly trained and dedicated professional employees. From innovative investigative programs to the latest technological advancements in forensic science and information services, the GBI is committed to improving the quality of life for the citizens of Georgia by solving crimes and reducing criminal activity.