Over the past several decades, popular media has contributed to a widespread misunderstanding of INTERPOL and how it operates. The media often portrays INTERPOL as a body that sends out detectives or agents to arrest and apprehend criminals. This is not the case. As explained in a previous blog post here, INTERPOL receives information from law enforcement agencies in INTERPOL member countries around the world. The organization then shares that information with other member countries to aid in the suspect’s apprehension.  

Fictional films on INTERPOL

For example, in the 2011 film version of The Adventures of Tintin:  The Secret of the Unicorn, the plot concerned two detectives who were “INTERPOL agents” investigating a crime.  This portrayal of detectives investigating crimes further feeds the misunderstanding of INTERPOL, and it continues today. More recently, the 2021 Netflix film Red Notice depicts Dwayne Johnson as an INTERPOL agent tracking down an international art thief. These portrayals are often the only times people hear about INTERPOL or Red Notices with any context, so they often lead to unrealistic ideas about the law enforcement support organization.

How INTERPOL member countries contribute to the media-driven misconceptions

The media-driven confusion is sometimes compounded by INTERPOL’s member countries themselves. Some member countries refer to their National Central Bureau offices – which are their liaisons between the countries and INTERPOL – by the name of “INTERPOL, ” although they are not actually operated by INTERPOL. For example, the United States refers to its NCB, which is the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., as “INTERPOL Washington.” This often leads individuals to reach out directly to the NCB for assistance on Interpol matters that have nothing to do with the United States, only to be directed to INTERPOL in Lyon, France.

Tthe confusion around INTERPOL’s purpose and functioning occasionally affects media reporting on real individuals. The post referenced above addresses multiple media outlets reporting in 2013 that INTERPOL’s agents in Mexico had gone missing while conducting an investigation. Reports stated that INTERPOL’s investigating officials had left the city of Chihuahua on Monday and had not reached their destination of Ciudad Juárez when INTERPOL had no such officials. 

All of this background information provides some context to RNLJ’s next post, in which we will address the false or erroneous reports regarding INTERPOL-related arrests that continue today. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.