The Policing we Deserve
Why Interpol needs to get better at countering global challenges
Sporadic instances of massacres, gruesome killings of young children due to the proliferation of gun culture, exploitation and abuse of children and women, targeting of the elderly for identity theft and swindling of their income are becoming commonplace. The areas of concern are growing and find resonance all over the world — from human trafficking to disturbing instances of financial crimes by the high and mighty, safe haven provided to fugitives accused of terrorism and money laundering and the proliferation of illicit trade based on counterfeiting and smuggling. Transnational organised crime continues to thrive due to illicit networks that operate on the strength of money laundering. The complex intertwined structure of crimes funding terrorism across the globe is not yet demolished.
In a democratic polity, police forces have to act with restraint, within the boundaries of legal procedures. Lawbreakers enjoy the ease of mobility and access to the internet. There is no diminishing trend of these threats within sight. Police forces the world over, including highly modernized agencies with sophisticated wherewithal, are facing these challenges.
Rising criminality has caused law enforcement to come under strain. It is against this backdrop that the 90th General Assembly of Interpol will be hosted by India this month.
In 2015, Interpol, CBI and the World Bank held under their joint aegis the Global Focal Point conference on the specific issue of asset recovery. The conference was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had called upon everyone to ensure that dirty money does not drive away good money. This time, however, when the supreme governing body of Interpol — the 195-nation strong General Assembly — meets, it will be required to formulate strategies to tackle the growing menace of crimes with transnational ramifications.
Interpol uses 19 databases and tools for issuing alerts, sharing information about criminals and their modus operandi. It has a huge repository of fingerprints, DNA profiles, facial recognition kits, cyber-enabled financial crimes, and property crimes, among others.
Providing information about crime and criminals in the digital space, preventing abuse of cyberspace and stalling hackers on the dark web are areas where Interpol’s global security architecture is used. It has undertaken various operations in different countries relating to the trafficking of women and children, Cyber-crimes, online piracy, spurious pharmaceuticals, narcotics smuggling, illegal gun trade, missing persons, stolen and lost travel documents.
Interpol databases populated by India relate to the Interpol Criminal Information System, stolen and lost travel documents, works of art and international child sexual exploitation. Interpol issues colour-coded notices of various hues — red, yellow, blue, black, orange, green and purple. A large number of red corner notices have been issued at the request of Indian law enforcement, resulting in the detention of several accused and convicted fugitives. India, as one of the oldest and strongest members of Interpol, has been involved in productive engagements over the years. Several operations have been undertaken by the CBI with Interpol.
Interpol, however, is required now to articulate an expansion beyond its databases and tools. The success of its secure i-24 for 24/7 information sharing aside, the importance of real-time dissemination of information obtained through unbiased usage of data analytics as a crucial imperative of emerging challenges should gain primacy. Equitable significance should be accorded to the legitimate interests of growing economies pursuing democratic charters. In its composition, Interpol is like the UN. But it is not meant for dispute resolution. It is designed to assist the police forces of member nations. Interpol is neither an investigative agency like the CBI nor a front-line police force. It is mandated to share information and provide back-end technical assistance to law enforcement agencies. Interpol action against notorious fugitives is consequential upon commensurate action from member nations where the fugitives might be seeking shelter. Interpol cannot act on its own. The desired legal course of action depends on bilateral arrangements like mutual legal assistance treaties.
The significance of the General Assembly being held in Delhi during Amrit Kaal is two-fold. First and foremost is India becoming the fifth-largest economy in the world, and on the path to becoming the third-largest in the near future. Second, the country has created a positive impact by bringing down terrorist-related violence. Moreover, India is now an acknowledged technology powerhouse. This demographic dividend of a large and young technology-oriented workforce in start-ups can be utilised for upgrading the security architecture. Indian skill development resources through capacity building programmes run by the CBI training academy are used periodically by the international police fraternity, particularly law enforcement agencies in Asia and Africa. It is time for Indian coaxial engagements with Interpol and other member nations to accelerate further, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Interpol will turn 100 next year. Now is the time to calibrate to counter emergent challenges. Policing is not merely a process for maintaining the rule of law through deterrent punitive measures against crime and criminals. Public-spirited efficient policing is the most meaningful confidence-building measure that people across diverse geopolitical contours desire and deserve. Interpol and law enforcement agencies of member nations must endeavor to build, maintain and operate a people-centric ecosystem to meet the evolving challenges.
This blog is written by Mr. Anil Sinha. It is first published in Indian Express.