In a recent documentary, “Interpol- who controls the world police?” the German public broadcast service, DW, explores issues affecting INTERPOL’s functioning, independence, and funding. The documentary addresses a variety of questions that have arisen over the last decade or so as INTERPOL has wrestled with the challenge of assisting its member countries with the enforcement of laws while also attempting to maintain neutrality with respect to its treatment of its member countries.
Primary to the focus of the documentary is the issue of funding. INTERPOL is an international organization that historically been funded by its member countries on a relatively sliding scale: the more wealthy countries contribute more financial resources, and the less wealthy countries contribute less. However, even with some of the wealthiest countries in the world paying their share, INTERPOL’s budget is remarkably low considering the tasks for which it is responsible. After the 9/11 attack on the twin towers, as the organization sought to increase its role in the world stage of policing, it sought other funding options. The result was both beneficial and harmful to INTERPOL’s mission and reputation. In recent years, changes in both policy and practice have followed.
This is the first of a four-part series that examines DW’s documentary against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and current activities.
For today, we’ll start with a very basic but important distinction: INTERPOL is not, as the documentary implies in its title, a police force meant to police the world. It is a data-sharing organization with whom its member countries agree to cooperate. The primary purpose of the organization is to assist its member countries with locating wanted individuals for prosecution or sentencing in criminal cases by circulating information about the wanted person’s location. Another, growing goal of INTERPOL is to assist its member countries’ police forces with education, prevention, and training. However, as illustrated in the documentary, INTERPOL has the capacity to take on a semi-private police force characteristic if it agrees at a policy level to enforce certain laws, to accept funding from private entities, and to allow its actions to be influenced by private interests.
In this series, we will examine each of these issues against the backdrop of INTERPOL’s past and in anticipation of its future.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.