This paper responds to four central questions: (1) Why is it especially important today that police agencies and theorists cooperate across national borders? (2) What special conditions exist today that support improving international police cooperation? (3) What are some of the basic obstacles to improved cooperation? And (4) In what ways is international police cooperation likely to develop in the immediate future? It concludes that the best opportunity for improving international police cooperation is within established "specialized" areas of policing such as criminalistics, hostage negotiations, homicide investigations, canine handling, communications, and patrol, just to name a few. Of these specialized areas, basic recruit training offers the best immediate results because it cuts across all of what we teach new officers to do.
The author draws on his experiences as a sworn San Francisco police officer and former director of SFPD's Training Academy, as a participant in professional exchanges with police academies in Omsk, Russia, and Enkenbach, Germany, and as a teacher of comparative justice systems at Golden Gate University, San Francisco. Special thanks are due to Professor Ethan Nadelmann of Princeton University, on whose ideas and scholarship this paper draws heavily.
THE NEED FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICE COOPERATION
An Increasing Threat of Transnational Crime
The propensity of criminals to cross national borders--to engage in "transnational crime"-- is certainly not a new phenomenon; it is probably as old as the borders themselves. Borders were established to delineate the jurisdiction claimed by each state, and crossing national borders has often provided criminals with a way to mitigate or avoid the consequences of illegal acts. Yet in spite of a long, eventful history, there is strong evidence that transnational crime has become more prevalent and serious today than ever before.
Our Shrinking World
We live in a different world from that of our parents and grandparents, and many of the differences facilitate greater transnational crime. Consider, for example, the following five developments, all within the last twenty-five years: (1) Transportation systems have improved and expanded dramatically, particularly airline and automobile travel; international tourism and business travel are at record levels. (2) Communication systems have improved and expanded, most notably satellite and fiber optic telephone and television transmission, FAX transmission, and computer information storage, processing, and transmission. (3) The breakup of the Soviet Union has reduced or eliminated many trade and travel restrictions between East and West, reduced the level of social control within and between many of the former Soviet Block countries, and made obsolete many countries' Cold War fears and policies. (4) World trade has expanded, including stronger participation by the economies of Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the "Third World"; world economic interdependence is now a basic fact of life. (5) Perhaps most significant of all, the world's population has increased, resulting in more crowding, more areas of poverty, disease, and hunger, and large movements of people across national borders. The cumulative effect of these conditions is more people, more opportunities and possibly reasons for committing crime, and more effective movement of people and information across national borders--a perfect setup for increased transnational crime. It is no wonder that our newspapers now regularly report incidences of international terrorism, theft, smuggling, securities and currency violations, computer crimes, fleeing from justice, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration--just to name a few.
The Police Mission
A distinguishing feature of modern civilization is the use of governmental institutions--
police, courts, and correctional agencies --to intervene on society's behalf to resolve conflicts
and enforce basic social rules.
A second primary goal of state justice, salient to this paper, is the serving of each society's own dominant values and customs in the administration of "justice". Hence, each society has its own enforcement style and priorities, and even some of its own laws--factors that complicate and occasionally frustrate attempts at international police cooperation.
Overcoming the Limits of Jurisdiction
Transnational crime, by definition, involves two or more countries, each claiming
sovereignty and exclusive criminal jurisdiction within its own borders. Hence, when a criminal
crosses the border, any pursuing police officers "lose" their jurisdiction. To overcome this
problem, governments and their police agencies have employed numerous strategies. Some
involve direct, unilateral, extralegal police action within another country or official collusion to
circumvent the law, and some involve cooperative, bilateral, legally-sanctioned actions by one
country's police, or by a multinational police task force, on behalf of another country. The first
of these two "kinds" of strategies is predicated on violating international law and other
Guiding Principles for Improvement
Given our experiences to date in policing transnational crime, two principles immediately suggest themselves for guiding our attempts to do better in the future. First, we should found our international police working relationships on properly negotiated agreements--that is, on mutual respect, benefit, and consent--rather than political or economic coercion, violation of foreign sovereignty, or extralegal collusion. Second, related to the first, is the achievement of greater consistency, effectiveness, predictability, and legitimacy in the relationships. These principles are admittedly idealistic and difficult to achieve, but they are worth keeping in mind and worth working for.
Specific Needs for Cooperation
From a practical police perspective, certain specific acts of international cooperation are regularly needed to deal with transnational crime. Initially, there is a need for discovering, documenting, and communicating basic working information about crimes; for example: What happened? When? Where? Description of suspects? Injuries? Next, there is a need for direct acts of investigative assistance; for example, locating and arresting suspects, collecting evidence, identifying and interviewing witnesses, and detaining and extraditing suspects. Finally, there is frequently a need for help in prosecution; for example, deposing witnesses or arranging for their appearance in court, having investigative personnel testify in court, and if a conviction occurs, providing the sentencing judge with background information about the suspect to guide the determination of an appropriate punishment.
Other forms of transnational police cooperation, less commonly recognized but potentially
as important, include the sharing of law enforcement expertise, technology, and resources, the
exchange of cultural information and philosophy,
SPECIAL CONDITIONS SUPPORTING EXPANDED COOPERATION
Ironically, perhaps, most of the contemporary world conditions that facilitate increased transnational crime, mentioned under "Our Shrinking World" above, also make possible greater international police cooperation. To these, we might add the following: (1) the advancement and spread of television, movies, and professional news media; (2) the commitment of many countries--the U.S. is a sad exception--to the teaching of second and third languages in school; and (3), as a cumulative result of the other conditions mentioned above, the development of a heightened "world consciousness" within law enforcement and among general populations throughout the world. Let us briefly consider each of these.
Television, Movies, and The News Media
The art of movie production has advanced and spread throughout the world, as have the technology and program production skills of the television industry. In many parts of the world, more households own TV sets than telephones. Likewise, professional news organizations-- that use newspaper, magazine, radio, and/or television media--have increased in size, budgets, and journalistic skills. Dedicated news networks like CNN, with large, Skilled international staffs and a deliberate international news focus, have made world news coverage available everywhere; and even small news companies can effectively access and pass along international news coverage by subscribing to an established "service" such as United Press International or Reuters. Limited international news coverage is even available now on the "Internet" for a modest subscription fee. Because of these contemporary developments, more people are now kept better informed about important daily events throughout the world such as natural disasters, political and economic developments, and major crimes. They are also exposed to foreign movies and television programs, both documentary and fictional, that help to establish common "knowledge", experiences, and meanings--perhaps the first step toward the development of a worldwide "low" or everyday culture. I have friends in Switzerland, for example, who used to watch the old (1980's) "Streets of San Francisco" TV program about fictional San Francisco police officers and criminals; and my police colleagues in Omsk, Russia, described their own organized crime and violence problems in 1993 as comparable to those of "Chicago in the 1930's". The point is that they "learned" about San Francisco's police and about Chicago's Mafia by watching translated television and "The Godfather" movie, and we had some common "experiences" to discuss and enjoy.
Commitment to Foreign Language Proficiency
A fundamental condition for people anywhere to live and work together is the ability to
communicate efficiently; and for most of us, this means mastering a common spoken and
written language. For many years, most of the world's nations have deliberately taught second
and third languages, particularly the current "international" languages, French and English,
Heightened World Consciousness
Another important cumulative effect of the world conditions described above is the development of a heightened "world consciousness". By this, I mean that more people appear to be more mindful on a daily basis of what is going on in other countries, and to feel a personal concern for the outcome of international events. This is not to say that we have suddenly overcome all of our traditionally divisive, conflict-generating human feelings and attitudes, such as fear, hurt, jealousy, greed, cultural chauvinism, and the desire to boss others around. Our need for police officers and soldiers is likely to remain with us well into the future. However, what does seem to be emerging is a perhaps unspoken belief that we are all in this world together, and is spite of all the divisive forces at work in our lives, that we can all somehow live better if we cooperate, at least where transnational crime is concerned.
Admittedly, the existence or absence of such an emerging attitude cannot be empirically
proved at this point; however, its development makes sense in light of the world conditions
discussed above; and the apparent worldwide political popularity of "fighting international
crime" provides supporting evidence.
Would-be leaders such as athletic coaches, politicians, and labor officials have long employed the "syncretism" principle--that is, the threat of a common enemy and the focus of a shared goal--to unify and motivate groups of people. Transnational crime appears to be assuming the role of a common enemy to the whole world--similar, perhaps, to the role of the invading aliens in the science fiction movie "Independence Day", whose attack, in the movie's plot, resulted in unprecedented world unity and cooperation.
There are, of course, other common enemies currently out there threatening, and potentially unifying, our world. AIDS and other communicable disease epidemics, environmental pollution, poverty, and world hunger are familiar examples. These problems may compete to some degree with transnational crime for politicians' attention and limited world resources, but their main effect so far has been to facilitate greater world unity.
OBSTACLES TO GREATER INTERNATIONAL POLICE COOPERATION
How Cooperative Relationships Develop
International cooperative police relationships, when they have been successful, typically
evolve according to a three-step process that Professor Ethan Nadelman has termed
"harmonization": (1) regularization of relations; (2) accommodation of different systems to each
other; and (3) harmonization toward a common norm.
Four Conditions for Success
Looking at the process by which successful international cooperative police relationships develop from a slightly different angle, four conditions must be present: (1) a perception shared by all of the participating parties of a serious, threatening crime problem; (2) the involvement of experienced career law enforcement personnel who help define the problem and propose practical solutions; (3) the involvement of political officials who formulate, enact, and defend enabling laws and budgetary support; and (4) regular communication between law enforcement professionals and political officials throughout the whole process. Whenever any of these conditions has been absent or flawed, consistent, effective, international police cooperation has not occurred.
From the above model, one can imagine possible obstacles to the presence of each
essential condition. The first condition, a shared perception of a serious crime threat, enjoys the
fewest serious obstacles in today's world.
The third condition, obtaining political support in each participating country, is absolutely essential to maintaining a working international relationship. All such relationships require legal authority to operate--enabling legislation or at least official permission--and the expenditure of money, personnel hours, and other agency resources. These requirements, of course, are the province of politicians. Politicians also play a critical role in organizing public support and taking any political "heat".
The three primary obstacles to obtaining needed political support, in most cases, boil
down to these: (1) overcoming short- or long-term enmity and/or rivalry between countries;
(2) convincing politicians
A fourth serious obstacle to attaining political support is the need to diplomatically work out fundamental differences in law enforcement style. Different countries, based on their respective histories and customs, have markedly different ideas about what constitutes "properly administered" state justice. For example, the U.S.'s Common Law tradition heavily emphasizes individual rights, due process of law, lawyer-intensive adversary proceedings, and the use of judicial precedents as a source of law. In contrast, most of Continental Europe follows the Civil Law tradition that emphasizes the interests of the community/state, informal, neutral, efficient inquisitorial proceedings, legislative superiority in declaring the law, and consistency of legal philosophy. Reconciling these disparate styles into a working cooperative relationship requires strong commitment, compromise, and the skillful "selling" of the final product to each political constituency. Most politicians, perhaps more commonly in the U.S. than in other countries, do not have direct diplomatic experience, are not comfortable in a diplomatic role, and are focused primarily on pleasing a local constituency. They are reluctant to get involved beyond giving vague lip service to projects that would take them into unfamiliar territory and perhaps offend many voters.
The fourth condition, maintaining regular lines of communication between law
enforcement professionals and political officials across national borders, is vulnerable to all of
the pitfalls that affect international communication generally--different time zones, different
languages, unfamiliar or undependable equipment, and so forth. These obstacles can usually be
overcome through determination, discipline, ingenuity, and patience. More specific to the
needs of law enforcement and political communication, however, is the problem of knowing
whom to call in other countries--the appropriate governmental contacts--and the appropriate
protocol for communicating with them.
Current Trends: What is Going On?
The following trends may be discerned in the realm of international policing: an increase
in the number of mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) between countries; an increase
MLATs--that may relate to any of the forms of police cooperation mentioned in Specific Needs above--are a positive step in that they advance the guiding principle of bilateralism. Their primary drawbacks as a tool of international police cooperation are that they take time to negotiate and may not be available when needed for urgent cases, and each treaty reflects a unique agreement between countries, resulting in different criminal procedures for dealing with different countries. Perhaps, according to Ethan Nadelman's "harmonization" theory, we will eventually be able to achieve universal acceptance of model international treaties related, for example, to exchanging information about crimes, arrest and extradition, and searches and seizure of evidence. Interpol's annual General Assembly meetings would provide an excellent forum for developing such models.
Stationing Law Enforcement Personnel in Other Countries
Stationing law enforcement personnel in other countries--ostensibly to Aprotect our own citizens'--is acceptable as long as it is done openly and with the permission of the countries in question. However, there is always the temptation, if not the initial intention, of taking direct, unauthorized law enforcement actions in other countries.
As "auxiliary police", the military's main recent job, in the U.S. at least, has been to combat drug cartels and terrorist organizations, and to protect the "human rights" of world citizens threatened by "genocide". Pragmatically, the military is "available" with armed personnel and other valuable resources. On the other hand, there are at least three critical needs implied: (1) a need to give all participating military personnel training in civilian police law and procedures; (2) a need to establish proper control and accountability for the military participation; and (3) a need to secure at least prior UN Security Council endorsement before militarily invading another country, even for the noble purpose of "protecting human rights". Until these needs are fully met, it is best to avoid using military personnel as international police agents.
UN Security Forces
The use of UN security forces to maintain peace and order in local bloody conflicts, as in the recent Gulf War and in Bosnia, is a fascinating development. It reflects a new world consensus behind such UN police actions, at least in some cases, and it makes the UN appear more and more like an evolving world governmental authority with "bite" well as "bark". Nevertheless, UN police actions are subject to the same three critical needs, listed above, for military personnel--training, control and accountability, and prior Security Council approval.
Expanding Interpol's roll in combating transnational crime is highly desirable in that it is well-established, offers valuable law enforcement experience and resources, and furthers our "guiding principles". The primary limits on Interpol's usefulness are the complexity of its procedures and their remoteness to patrol officers--at least in the U.S.. To the extent that they need information or assistance from a foreign police agency, most U.S. police officers are likely to try to deal directly with the foreign police agency or ask the FBI or DEA for assistance. Then, if these fail, either a follow-up detective, the FBI, or DEA would contact Interpol. Utilizing Interpol's services requires expertise, time, and money, particularly if arrest, extradition, and/or the seizure of property is involved. Because of these factors, potential Interpol cases must be reviewed, prioritized, and rationed.
Fraternal Police Exchanges
Along with the growth of world travel and tourism generally, more and more police officers are now taking vacations in other countries, meeting their foreign colleagues, socializing with them, and corresponding with them by letter, phone, FAX, or E-mail. The International Police Association, a worldwide police fraternal organization, reports increasing levels of membership and travel hosting applications, and conversations with police officers in the U.S. and abroad confirm an upswing. Such fraternal police exchanges offer immeasurable benefits. Building on a natural occupational connection between police officers everywhere, they enable officers and their families to meet foreign officers and their families personally, to eat and "party" with them, and to share recreational and sightseeing activities. In addition to being fun, they foster more open communication, a deeper understanding of different cultures and customs, and a greater willingness to work together and help each other out--a definite boost for the "harmonization" process.
Working Relationships in Specialty Areas
The police occupation, like most of the world's occupations, has become increasingly specialized, and each of the specialty areas has developed a unique identity and fraternity of its own based on a commonly held esoteric body of knowledge, experiences, and terminology. The following are examples of established police specialty areas: patrol, communications, budget/finance, administration, personnel, burglary investigations, homicide investigations, traffic control, criminalistics, management control, and training. When officers from one police agency communicate with officers in another, even across national borders, it is often within a specialty area, and some specialty areas have formed international professional organizations of their own, such as International Association of Chiefs of Police and Homicide Investigators' Association. When officers travel to other countries, they often seek contact with officers from their own specialty area to compare notes and learn from each other.
To advance the shared knowledge of the specialty area, and to bring all of their practitioners up to speed, many specialty areas organize international conferences and/or hold joint training exercises. For example, American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, with a large and growing international membership, is sponsoring an international training conference in Buffalo, New York, in January, 1997; and my police training colleagues in Enkenbach, Germany, regularly conduct joint training exercises with French and Belgian police in the areas of police dog handling, bomb investigations, and hostage negotiations. Importantly, such conferences and exercises are not seen as threatening to the authority of incumbent politicians and police administrators because they deal with relatively narrow, technical aspects of the police operation. They offer prestige to the hosting country and agency, and for the participants, they are both fun and professionally rewarding. They should, and probably will, be expanded.
Focusing on Recruit Training
Of the many police specialty areas in which international working relationships are developing, recruit training offers the best vehicle for promoting greater international police cooperation. This is so for at least three reasons: (1) it cuts across all of what new officers are taught to do; (2) it employs teaching/educational goals and methods; and (3) it is one of the most conveniently shareable specialty areas.
Knowing what a given police agency teaches its recruits to do provides us with an excellent first step in getting to know them. It is even better if we can find out the "why" behind the "what", and most training programs provide this too.
The use of teaching/educational goals and methods means that there is a commitment to transmit knowledge and learning, and that the instructors have skills and equipment to accomplish this. Hence, there is both motivation and ability to transmit what is taught to "outside students" as well as to recruits.
Training programs are usually well documented--at least in terms of printed curricula, course outlines, and lesson plans. They are also usually conducted under circumstances that would not endanger observers or have observers interfere with police operations. Hence, if there is a willingness to share what is taught with outsiders, it is relatively convenient to do so.
To briefly summarize what has been said so far, transnational crime has become more prevalent and serious today than ever before, at least in the public's perception, and has become a pressing international political issue. Meanwhile, there are many conditions in today's world that make the development of international police cooperation more possible and convenient than ever before. In capitalizing on this opportunity, we should follow two guiding principles, based essentially on the values of bilateralism, legality, effectiveness, and consistency, so that our newly expanded cooperative police relationships mark progress rather than regression. The process by which successful police cooperative relationships develop, "harmonization", requires that four enabling conditions be met, and there are serious obstacles to be overcome in achieving these conditions. Finally, of seven current trends in international policing considered, one, the development of working relationships in specialty areas, bears special promise for improving international police cooperation in the future.
A Few Personal Comments
There is much that could be done to help further the development of international police cooperation--involving, among other parties, academia, individual police agencies, Interpol, the U.N., prosecutors and legal advisors, those who develop and administer police training curricula, and politicians. Unfortunately, this discussion must be deferred to another forum. Whatever may be attempted in the future, however, I hope that the "guiding principles" stated above are kept in mind.
There is danger in current political rhetoric that would characterize criminals, transnational or domestic, as faceless hostile invaders from another world. Certainly, what the criminals do is bad, and they fully deserve to be punished; but it is important to keep in mind that the criminals themselves are human beings and members of our societies-our blood relatives. In spite of their bad behavior, we need to treat them fairly. This is important for maintaining our own "humanity" and self-respect.
There is also danger in overemphasizing specialization and efficiency/effectiveness in police operations, both domestic and transnational. Some specialization is probably necessary to keep up with all of the technical skills and knowledge demanded of police agencies today; but too much fosters divisiveness in the organization and bureaucratic behavior in dealing with the public. Likewise, an overemphasis on efficiency and effectiveness, particularly when applied to the "crime control" dimension of the police role, tends to place officers in a remote, adversary relationship with the public. This phenomenon is responsible in large part for the current popularity of the "community policing" concept, that stresses the "helper/server" dimension of the police role and close, neighborhood-based relations with the public.
Finally, the process of developing good, lasting international police cooperation--termed "harmonization"--will take time and patience. There will be occasional errors and adjustments, perhaps also setbacks. Nevertheless, because of the world developments mentioned above, this process will probably advance in the future, even without special help from us.