International Police Cooperation: Emerging Issues, Theory, and Practice

Robin Fletcher (Middlesex University, London, UK)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 8 November 2011



Fletcher, R. (2011), "International Police Cooperation: Emerging Issues, Theory, and Practice", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 739-741.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The global nature and cooperation of organised crime and the criminals who participate in such activities has led to new collaboration between the police, other investigative agencies and criminal justice systems across the world. Lemieux's book provides an insight into some of the difficulties that need to be addressed, if this new found collaboration is going to be successful. In the opening chapter he establishes the themes under discussion and sets the scene with a discussion of the importance of trust as an essential part of the process and reflects on the different levels of influence (whether it be political, bureaucratic, organisational or legislative) that will either support or prevent a positive outcome.

The book is divided into four sections with the first exploring the “Current conceptual issues in police cooperation” by focusing on the development of European cooperation in combating all forms of criminal activity, with particular emphasis on organised crime. Guille's research (chapter 2) examines the gap between the bilateral and often informal cooperation of practitioners and multilateral bureaucracies and the imposition of regulated cross‐border information sharing protocols. It speculates that individuals and directly collaborating units/agencies are more efficient than centralised bureaucracies because of the trust developed through personal contacts, raising questions about the need for formal and centralised cooperation. The centralisation process is continued in chapter 3 by den Boer who examines the changing shape of police governance within the European Union, as the sovereign power of member states is eroded or enhanced with the creation of new agencies (Europol, Eurojust, Ceepol etc.) and protocols of judicial cooperation. In its conclusion this chapter speculates whether practitioners, politicians and the European executive are working to the same agenda and if progress is being driven by security issues rather than that of serious and organised crime. The final chapter in this section is an examination by Gerspacher and Lemieux into the advances made by Europol beyond its original mandate, suggesting the agency has taken advantage of the “complex legal and political environment” in which it now operates to extend its area of influence as a “knowledge broker” and suggesting the drive is more to do with security issues than crime.

Section two is a series of case studies of “applied police cooperation” and begins with a critical examination of Switzerland's attempts at developing regional intelligence centres. Ribaux and Birrer's study explains how the collation and dissemination of centralised intelligence is often “challenged” by top‐down initiatives, with changes in computer technology; and other uncontrollable parameters, adding to the complexity of analysing data. They argue that a lack of research has failed to recognise how iterative and adaptive approaches by local practitioners can ease the introduction of new processes, because they have the necessary skills to interpret and adapt in order to achieve a useful final product, often ignoring unnecessary bureaucratic protocols. The adaptability of local practitioners is further explored by Fijaut and Spapens who researched bi/tri/multi‐lateral cross‐border cooperation in the Meuse‐Rhine Euroregion. They identified successful practitioners and collaborative agencies who were adaptable and used innovative practices so that they could respond quickly to evolving cross‐border criminality, questioning the ability of formal approaches through central protocols to respond as effectively. A different perspective to joint agency collaboration is considered by Perras and Leimeux (chapter 7) who compared the models used by police in combating terrorism and organised crime. They used a “social learning” model to establish the extent of knowledge and expertise transfer between multi‐jurisdictional operatives where was a convergence of operational necessity between the clandestine model of anti‐terrorist agencies and the transparent nature of anti‐criminal investigators. The last chapter in this section by Gerspacher, is an interesting account of political manoeuvring by one state of the European Union over another as it coerced a reluctant neighbour to fully cooperate in the activities of Europol and expand its sharing of information and intelligence.

The third section moves beyond the European boundaries and examines “special issues on international police cooperation” and examines the depth of political influence needed for successful collaboration between within and between continents. It opens with a comparative analysis of approaches made by the US and the European Union in the battle against terrorism. The first half of the chapter considers the internal initiatives developed by both continents, with particular reference to information sharing; leadership; legal and institutional reform. The second half examines the evolving convergence of transatlantic relationship, between the two bodies, in the light of recent atrocities. The need for political support in developing cross‐border police cooperation is further pursued by Yang and Lemiuex (chapter 10) with a case study of Taiwan and China, highlighting the need for strong political will and an ability to re‐access political ideology, in order to combat cross‐border serious and organised crime. Because the police in both countries are tightly controlled by a paranoid oligarchy there are few opportunities for local practitioners to develop informal practises as described in other chapters, although recent changes in the social and economic structures of China may influence future police cooperation. Political influence and intervention features prominently in the next chapter where van der Spey describes the problems of an African continent that has witnessed numerous “civil” wars and violent disputes in the last half century. He explains how the creation of an interventionist African Standby Force presents a number of challenges that have to be addressed in order to achieve success. The complexity of “policing” such events relies on factors that are beyond those normally associated with cross‐border police collaboration and is a reminder of the extent to which cooperation has to extend. The police/military model of intervention is continued in the final chapter of this section by Goldsmith and Harris who explore both the positive and negative aspects of joint police/military operations, when trying to re‐establish law and order in a country that has suffered a civil war.

The final section “Accountability and effectiveness in police cooperation” begins with a critical examination of the actual commitment, as opposed to rhetoric, of nation states toward international cooperation. Gerspacher and Pujas establish the extent to which nations are expected to cooperate and provide examples of why some are reluctant to fully engage at this level. They also discuss how agencies, such as Interpol and Europol, have overcome this reluctance by assuming an “informal supranational” role to cajole political leaders and appropriate national agencies into full and active participation. In chapter 14 Lemieux uses the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a case study to measure the extent of international police partnerships. He develops a thesis that collaborative development falls under two paradigms, economic and political. The first being driven by operational functions such as performance, efficiency and effective use of resources, whereas the second is measured by diplomatic relations, consensual collaboration, a common legal framework and shared security issues, thus creating a difficult arena in which to measure success. Governance and accountability are pursued by Johnston and Stenning in the penultimate chapter, raising issues of the “extended police family” and the distinction between private and public governance. It establishes governance as a multiplex of regulatory powers and self‐regulation involving such diverse actors as state bodies, professional associations, industrial associations, accredited bodies and a myriad of other national and international organisations. In the final chapter Sheptycki introduces the concept of the “constabulary ethic” arguing that a formulaic approach to police accountability, particularly in the global context, is likely to fail at the first hurdle because policing is a discretionary activity that allows the use of cohesive force, is not a pre‐planned logical activity and there are no global rules on how it should be conducted. He suggests that such power requires a consensus on governance, morality and ethics that should become a global imperative for the twenty‐first century.

This book provides an insight to many of the issues faced by politicians and practitioners as they develop international cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism. Through a series of case studies, and other empirical research, the authors show the complex nature of this collaboration with evidence of decision making being made at three levels, namely politician to politician; practitioner to practitioner; and politician to practitioner, which in turn highlights the multi‐layered framework of governance that has emerged as a consequence of this collaboration. There are a number of examples of how practitioners overcome the idealism of bureaucracies in order to “make the system work,” although it is recognised such practises may have ethical and organisational ramifications, particularly with accountability. This book provides a fascinating insight to international collaboration and cooperative policing and is essential reading for all practitioners, scholars and politicians who have an interest in the global phenomena of crime and terrorism.

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