INTERPOL: International Policing

Learn how INTERPOL encourages and facilitates international police cooperation

ICPO-Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France

DoppioM/Wikimedia Commons/CC SA

In a perfect world, when and if a criminal committed a crime, he would conveniently remain within the confines of the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. Then again in a perfect world, there would be no crime, to begin with.

Unfortunately for us, our world isn't perfect and, as if dealing with the problem of crime weren't difficult enough, law enforcement agencies often find themselves dealing with jurisdictional issues and red tape when trying to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals. For more than 100 years, the international organization now known as INTERPOL has been helping local and national police agencies fight crime around the world.

Brief History of INTERPOL

INTERPOL was first conceptualized in 1914 when law enforcement and representatives of the justice systems from 24 countries met in Monaco at the first International Criminal Police Congress. Out of that Congress came 12 wishes for the future of law enforcement cooperation around the world. Those 12 wishes expressed the desire for:

  • Improved direct, official contacts between police forces from different countries.
  • The use of postal, telephone and telegram services free of charge for police forces to facilitate arrests.
  • The use of a single uniform language (then French, with the hope that Esperanto would become widespread) to facilitate international communications.
  • That training in forensic science be provided to law and law enforcement students.
  • The increase in the number of law enforcement and police academies within countries.
  • The establishment of an identification system to aid in identifying international criminals.
  • The establishment of an international committee of identification experts to implement the identification system.
  • The establishment of a centralized records repository.
  • The study and establishment of a model extradition treaty to assist in ensuring criminals receive justice.
  • The direct and immediate transmission of extradition requests.
  • That provisional arrests are possible upon notification from the requesting country to the country hosting a fugitive.
  • That countries work together to ensure that when a criminal faces charges in two separate countries, fugitives are extradited expeditiously after a decision is handed down in the first country.

The organization that is now known as INTERPOL was officially established as the International Criminal Police Commission in 1923 and was based in Vienna.

During World War II, the ICPC fell under NAZI control and most member nations ceased participation, effectively ending the organization. At the end of the war, the agency was rebuilt and relocated to Paris, where it still exists. In 1949 INTERPOL was officially recognized by the United Nations as a nongovernmental entity.

Purpose of INTERPOL

INERPOL is not an investigative body, but instead is a support organization with the goal of aiding in the investigation of crimes and arrests of criminals worldwide. The organization has established a secure communications system to expedite international cooperation and provide access to international criminal databases such as the United States' NCIC. The organization also employs forensic science experts, police training, and crime analysts to provide an international support system for crime fighters.​

Working for INTERPOL

At the heart of the INTERPOL mission is police cooperation. To that end, INTERPOL employs a "seconding" program in which representatives from member countries are seconded or placed on loan to INTERPOL for a specified period or tour. Each individual country appoints its representatives from that nation's INTERPOL National Central Bureau.

In the United States, INTERPOL-Washington is hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and makes appointments from its various partner agencies, which include the NCIS, the FBI, New York Police Department, the National Sheriff's Association and many other state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. To work for INTERPOL, you must first work for a partner agency and make a request via your chain of command.

Benefits of INTERPOL

The existence of INTERPOL has improved relations and efficiency of law enforcement around the world since its inception. The cooperation has proven so successful that even officers from countries with no diplomatic relationships can work together through INTERPOL channels to solve crime and capture criminals.