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The INTERPOL represents the largest police organization in the world consisting of about 186 member countries. The INTERPOL is therefore, a police organization whose main agenda is to promote cross border police cooperation. Its operations are funded by the member states, which is through the yearly contributions of approximately $59 million. In terms of international organizations, it is ranked second after the United Nations. Its headquarters is currently based in Lyon, France. It is distinguished from other international organizations since it does not participate in international politics, military actions, religious aspects and cultural concerns (Dunoff & Trachtman, 2009). The principle of survival of INTERPOL is based on extensive neutrality; implying that it primarily lays emphasis on issues concerning public safety, acts of terrorism, crimes concerning the environmental issues, serious offenses against humanity, cyber crimes, crimes relating to intellectual property, and other illegal activities that contravene the normal laws of its member states. INTERPOL also plays a significant role in enhancing international police collaboration even in scenarios where there is tainted diplomatic relations. Its operations are limited in accordance with the existing laws of a particular country, provided the laws are in line with the rule of international crime (Imhoff & Cutler, 1998).
History of the INTERPOL
One of the significant forces behind the establishment of the INTERPOL was the First International Police Congress. A number of police officers and key players of the criminal justice system such as lawyers, judges and magistrates, held a summit meeting in Monaco during 1914 to determine effective ways of arresting offenders. One of the key agendas of the meeting was to standardize identification techniques and procedures that were to be followed in the process of making arrests. The convention also wanted to streamline and create a centralized database of criminal records at the international level and the corresponding expatriation procedures. The onset of World War I deferred this idea. INTERPOL was first formed during 1923 in Austria, under the name International Criminal Police Commission. Its name was later changed to INTERPOL during 1956 (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
After the establishment of ICPC, developments were initiated towards the establishment of the National Central Bureaus during 1927. During 1930, specialized departments were established to deal with crimes of currency counterfeits and the imitation of passports. The Interpol launched its first international radio network in 1935. During the Nazi regime, the ICPC ceased to exist as an international society since German had taken control of it. It was however, revived after the end of World War II with its headquarters relocated to Paris. It was during this time that the color-coded system for issuing notices was initiated. During 1956, the ICPC was re branded as INTERPOL. It was recognized by the UN as an international Organization during 1971, and its headquarters was relocated to Lyon in 1989. The sub-regional Bureaus were established during 1995. Major operational advancements saw the establishment of the INTERPOL Criminal Information System in 1998, the Command and Coordination Center during 2003. During 2005, the Interpol launched collaborative efforts with the United Nations Security Council (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
Organizational structure of the INTERPOL
The organizational structure of the Interpol is bound by the multilateral police force agreement between the member countries. The Interpol consists of police organs from the member states; it has no police employees of its own but facilitates transnational police collaboration (INRERPOL INT., 2011). According to the constitution of the Interpol, its organizational structure consists of five main bodies:
a) General Assembly; which has the highest authority in the organization.
b) The executive committee; which comprises of thirteen members who are elected by the general assembly. The president of the Interpol is the head of the executive committee.
c) The general Secretariat; which comprise of the general secretary who is elected by the general assembly basing on five-year terms which can be renewed.
d) The national Central Bureaus; these are national bodies, which are selected, by the member countries and act as a link between the member country and the other member states, the general secretariat and the law enforcement organs in the country.
e) Sub regional bureaus which comprises of law enforcement representatives who come from the region. The sub regional bureaus are presently found in Kenya, Cameroun, Argentina, Thailand, El Salvador, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe.
f) The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files; which represents an independent body that is in charge of ensuring that data in the Interpol database complies with the required Interpol standards and regulations. The commission is also responsible for offering advice concerning any project that the Interpol intends, ensuring that communication requests by the member countries are contained in the Interpol files.
g) A group of advisors, who are selected by the General Assembly.
The governance of Interpol
The governance of Interpol consists of the General assembly and the Executive committee under the leadership of the president who is elected by the general assembly on a term of four years. The role of the president is to make sure that activities of the Interpol are carried in accordance with the decisions of the meetings. The president is also required to chair meetings between the general assembly and the executive committee and he should maintain consistent contact with the general secretariat. The general assembly is the most supreme body of the organization and normally meets annually to deliberate issues affecting the organization, make decisions concerning the general policy and allocation of resources towards the realization of international policing programs. The general assembly is tasked with the appointment of the executive committee. The role of the executive committee in terms of governance includes supervision of the execution of the activities that were passed by the general assembly. The preparation of the agenda to be discussed at the meetings of the general assembly, submitting any international policing initiative which it considers useful to General Assembly and finally to supervise and administer the activities that are done by the general secretariat of the Interpol (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
The Interpol aims at maintaining association with international organizations, governments and other nongovernmental organs whose main reason for existence is to promote public safety. These collaborations are formal and entail the signing of collaboration accords and embracing of standardized conventions. The goal of the international liaison is to facilitate the sharing of information and that all international organizations that are tasked with the prevention of international crime make use of their comparative advantages effectively.
Recent developments saw joint efforts between the United Nations and the Interpol towards the fight against terrorism. This led to the establishment of the INTERPOL- United Nations Security Council Special Notice. This was during 2005 under the request of the United Nations Security Council, in its quest to fight transnational terrorism. This saw the collaborative efforts between the INTERPOL and the United Nations through a number of resolutions which were aimed at eliminated global terrorism. The INTERPOL general assembly accepted the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1617 which was aimed at increasing cooperation between the two international bodies in fighting terrorism by groups such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other individual terrorists. This led to the creation of a new special notice which was made formal through exchange of letters involving the Secretary General of the UN and the Interpol, concerning the cooperation agreement between the two international bodies (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
No country is forced to collaborate with the Interpol. A number of countries, particularly the United States, during the years before the onset of World War II, refused to collaborate with the Interpol basing on the perspective that the Interpol might misuse its information in the prosecution of political offences. Despite Interpol commitment not to be involved in political, religious, military or racial crimes, some countries have vehemently ignored this. The Interpol has the responsibility of ensuring that the classified information of its member countries does not get into the hands of terrorist groups; what many member states fear is the fact that the distribution of intelligence and classified information is not limited to the Interpol system.
Core functions of the INTERPOL and its mission
The primary task of the INTERPOL is to provide necessary support to the police and other law enforcement agencies within the member countries, with a major objective of preventing crime and carrying out criminal investigations in the most efficient and effective manner as possible. On a narrow perspective, the INTERPOL is mandated to facilitate cross border police collaborations, and in cases where their assistance is required, they can also offer support to governmental and intergovernmental institutions and authorities that exist for the sole purpose of preventing crime (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
In order for INTERPOL to execute its mandate effectively, it provides the member states and other crime control partner organizations the following four main functions:
a) Provision of secure international communicational platform for global police; recently, the INTERPOL acquired a state-of-the-art international communication tool for the law enforcement bodies. The secure communication platform provides effective and secure communication between the law enforcement agencies in the member states. It facilitates the transmission of information concerning suspected criminals and ongoing criminal activities so that the international criminal investigation process can be streamlined and the information can be available in real-time.
b) Provision of international databases and relevant data services; in addition to real time communication between the police in the member states, they require access to information which can be helpful in the process of conducting investigations and international crime prevention. The INTERPOL has established and maintained diverse international, databases and various data services which contain significant identification information such as the finger prints, the DNA profiles of the criminals under investigation, required photographs which can be helpful in the identification process and relevant data that can be helpful in the carrying out of investigation and crime prevention (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
c) Provision of operational support for the police in the member countries; the INTERPOL has specialized police regarding specific crimes such as drugs, human and child trafficking among many other crimes that hinder public safety. INTERPOL therefore, organizes specialized working groups and meetings which brings criminal prevention and investigation experts from all over the globe so that they can share their expertise in order to enhance the international criminal prevention and investigation techniques. INTERPOL also carries out criminal activity analysis so as to evaluate emerging crime trends, facilitate in the tracing of criminal offenders and the recognition of the perpetrators. Another support service that is offered by the INTERPOL is the Command and Coordination Center (CCC), which links the regional branch offices, the General Secretariat and the National Central Bureau. The CCC provides an avenue exchanging information between the member states which are requesting assistance from the INTERPOL. The CCC also plays a significant role in crisis management since it is the first to be contacted in a scenario where a member state request for assistance, after which the INTERPOL can decide to arrange for Incidence Response Teams (IRT). The IRT is specially trained to conduct investigations and provide support to the law enforcement organs within the member country (INRERPOL INT., 2011).
d) Stipulation of training and development; the INTERPOL attempts to enhance a member country's ability to combat international crime and acts of terrorism through avenues such as sufficient training of the police to handle such criminal activities, real time advice, required guidance and support in terms of developing an independent international crime police force. This is mainly through sharing of skills and development of global standards concerning the method of approach towards the various categories of crime.
The transmission of information across the Interpol system is primarily based on notices. Interpol intelligence majorly relies on the coded messages, whereby ten dissimilar colors are used to represent different approaches to international crime. The most common are the red notices which are used to represent communication requests for criminals who have been issued with a warrant of arrest and need extradition. The blue notices represent communication requests that seek to recognize and find the location of criminals or witnesses to a criminal activity. The green notice is a communication request that intends to inform and warn a country about a criminal who has been reported to have committed a series of crime in different countries. The yellow notice is a communication request that seeks to identify and find the location of missing children or people who may have been abducted. Black notices are used in recognition of corpses, while the purple notices are communication requests that seek to warn a country of potential modus operandi. The orange notice is used to advise of the ongoing criminal activities which do not involve the participation of an individual or a criminal group. Some crimes are not coded such as stolen property notices; however, their information is distributed in the Interpol system (Imhoff & Cutler, 1998).
In order for Interpol to execute its operations, there are standardized policies that attempt to enhance the border security and restrict the mobility of international criminals. Border security is affected by the lack of sufficient information by the border police who are at the border check points. This information is needed in order for effective recognition of potential criminals and criminal activities so as the border police can take appropriate action against suspected international criminals. The Interpol therefore, addresses this challenge through a highly synchronized and effective international police communication through increasing the capacity to provide crucial information across borders. The Interpol provides a framework for processing the individuals who are entering a country, which involve thorough cross checking with the information provided concerning the wanted criminals. This requires that the individuals provide authentic travel documents so as the border police can take appropriate action in cases where the process is breached (Posner, 2009).
In order to increase the effectiveness of the process of verification of travel documents, the Interpol created a database of Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) which is accessible to all member countries and via the Interpol's I-24/7 communication system. Presently, the database holds more than 16 million lost and stolen travel documents that have been reported in 120 member countries. Access to the I-24/7 communication system is restricted to the NCB, in most of the member countries. The Interpol policy of direct access to information should not be limited to the NCB. Therefore, the border police are updated with information in real time. The Interpol has also established integrated solutions to facilitate access the Interpol's databases. One such approach is the FIND/MIND which provides two different ways of having a direct connection to the Interpol database at the border check points or in other distant locations (Posner, 2009).
In order to reinforce the border security, the Interpol plans to set up a Border and Ports Security Center at its headquarters in Lyon, France. The primary purpose of establishing the center will be to boost border security of all entry points through providing support to member countries by adequate monitoring and investigation of illegal activities at the entry points. The purpose of the center will include monitoring, analyzing and reporting on how the Interpol's tools such as the SLTD database has been used and facilitate the training and the establishment of capacity-building standards that make the member countries comply with the security standards that are associated with entry ports. The center also intends to establish collaborative efforts with international organizations that are associated with the reinforcement of security of ports of entry.
Interpol relations with the United States
Prior to the World War II, the United States declined joining the Interpol, due to the fact they feared their classified information might leak out and that the Interpol might use its information to offer prosecution to its political criminals. For a long time, the United States has criticized the efficiency of Interpol in combating international criminal activities. During 1983, President Regan appreciated the importance of collaborating with international bodies in an effort to combat international crime; however, the states argued that they were not to become subjects of the international bodies at the expense of their internal policies. In order to address this issue, President Regan inserted limitations to the federal law in order to ensure that the rule of the federal law was submissive to the international organizations (Miller, 2010). The United States has for a long time been known to be at logger heads with any international organization that would somewhat undermine its superiority such as the International Criminal Court and the Interpol is no exception. The Interpol is the law enforcement body of the international Criminal Court; this therefore, implies that the United States is not comfortable with conforming to the requirements of the Interpol operate within its borders.
Under President Obama, the limitations on the federal law concerning the operations of the Interpol were removed. With the increasing terrorist threats directed at the United States, they needed deploy the collaborative efforts with the international police force, though operating under what can be termed as diplomatic immunity. This saw the endorsement of the Interpol to operate within the US. It is evident from the fact that an NCB was established in the US, under the US department of Justice in Washington. The constitution of America will not restrain the operations of the Interpol since the President Regan's limitations were removed under the Obama administration. Though such constraints were removed, it has been a subject of criticism as to why an international police organization would be granted impunity from the Federal law yet internal law enforcement agencies like the FBI has never been elevated above the Federal law (Miller, 2010).
Interpol relations with Federal Law Enforcement Agencies
For effective administration of its policies within the United States, Interpol requires collaborative efforts with the Federal Law enforcement Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Police Department. The Federal Law Enforcement agencies rely heavily on the Interpol on matters concerning international crime such as terrorism (Dunoff & Trachtman, 2009).
Joint operations between the Interpol and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies have always been successful. An instance of joint operation recently held between Interpol and the ICE which led to the arrest of 20 criminals. The relationship between Interpol and the federal Law Enforcement Agencies can be termed as beneficiary due to its integration of the Interpol into the United States Justice Department in Washington. The US NCB of Interpol is housed at the headquarters of the US department of Justice. It is arguable that the provision of immunity to Interpol towards the federal Law played a significant role in fostering healthy relations between the Interpol and the Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. This is evident through information sharing between the Interpol and the Law Enforcement Agencies in the United States (Miller, 2010).