What is INTERPOL

INTERPOL is the International Criminal Police Organization. It’s an intergovernmental organization with 195 member countries. INTERPOL helps law enforcement agencies in all the INTERPOL member countries work together, making the world a safe place to live.

INTERPOL enables the police to share data and information on crimes and criminals by offering operational and technical support. It has its headquarters in Lyon, France, and is the only police organization that extends globally.

Organization and Functions

INTERPOL concentrates on three categories of international crime.

  1. Counterterrorism: INTERPOL assists member countries in preventing and disrupting terrorism by identifying individuals or networks.
  2. Organized and emerging crime: INTERPOL targets and disrupts international criminal gangs and responds to criminal threats, such as human trafficking.
  3. Cybercrime: INTERPOL helps protect cyberspace by preventing and providing investigative support to cyberattacks.

INTERPOL is a global organization providing a platform for cooperation, thus enabling police forces to work together efficiently, even between countries with no diplomatic relations. All actions conducted are politically neutral and always within the limits of laws in the INTERPOL member countries.
Each member state has a clearing house known as the National Central Bureau. It makes it easy for law enforcement agencies to communicate with the General Secretariat or other local police forces of other countries.

History of INTERPOL

INTERPOL dates back to 1923 in Vienna, Austria, where it started. However, the idea was born in 1914 in Monaco at the International Criminal Police Congress. During the meeting, Interpol lawyers and police officials from 24 member states discussed how to solve the crime. However, the plans had to stall due to the start of the First World War.

In 1923, in Vienna, Austria, the President of the Vienna police, Dr. Schober, laid the foundations for INTERPOL during the second International Criminal Police Congress (ICPC). The participants of the meeting, who were representatives from 19 member countries, agreed to establish the ICPC on 7 September 1923.

The main role of the ICPC was to provide mutual assistance between the international criminal police commission. The main themes documented include; international police cooperation on international arrests and extradition (if it’s not a non extradition countries), fingerprinting techniques, and common languages, among others. These principles are still in use today.

Key dates

INTERPOL has had key milestones over the years since its inception. They are as follows.

  • 1923: On 7 September 1923, the establishment of ICPC, with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The President of Vienna police, Dr. Johannes Schober, served until 1932.
  • 1927: During the fourth General Assembly meeting held in Amsterdam, the participants adopted a resolution that the member states establish a central contact point within its police structure. It’s what is known as the National Central Bureaus today.
  • 1930: Special departments dealt with criminal records and passport forgery. All these data were analyzed manually and categorically stored for easier tracing. Manual storage and recording continued until the 1980s when the computerization of ICPC’s records commenced.
  • 1932: With new statutes in place, there was the creation of the Secretary-General post. The first Secretary General was Austrian Police Commissioner Oskar Dressler. The current serving Secretary-General is Jurgen Stock, from Germany.
  • 1935: ICPC launched the first international radio network that provided telecommunication for use by local police forces. By 1966, 34 member countries used this network; each year, it carried more than 90,000 messages.
  • 1938: The Nazis took control of the ICPC after deposing President SKubl. As a result, most countries discontinued participation, and ICPC stopped existing as an international organization. By 1942, it fell under German control, relocating to Berlin.
  • 1946: After the Second World War ended, Belgium led the rebuilding of the ICPC. There was a democratic process that led to the election of a president and executive committee. Also, the INTERPOL headquarters moved to Paris. Ten years later, INTERPOL became the organization’s official name.
  • 1947: It was a special year as the first Interpol Red Notice was issued. It was for a Russian man who killed a policeman. The system used for color-coded INTERPOL notices has expanded since then. There are several color-coded INTERPOL Notices, including an Interpol black notice, yellow, Interpol blue notice, Interpol green notice, purple notice, and Interpol diffusion notice, etc.
  • 1950: Since this year, an INTERPOL flag has been in use. The emblem consists of a globe, olive branches, a scale, and a vertical sword. The globe indicates global activities, olive branches indicate peace, and scales indicate justice while the vertical sword indicates police action. Also, it has an emblem at the center with four lightning flashes that indicate telecommunication and speedy action by police forces.
  • 1959: During the meeting, the participants pointed out cooperation between INTERPOL and the member countries needs experts specialized in investigating different types of international crime.
  • 1962: Member countries continued to grow from the original 16 during the organization’s inception. By 1955, there were about 50 countries, and this number grew gradually. By 1967, there were 100 countries.
  • 1969: INTERPOL noted that countries in the same region face similar criminal threats or issues. Therefore, there was importance in sharing information and expertise with the countries in the same region. As a result, INTERPOL organized a regional meeting for member countries in Ethiopia in 1969.
  • 1972: The United Nations strengthened INTERPOL’s status as an international organization with a Headquarters Agreement with France. The organization’s General Secretariat was located in Paris and later moved to Lyon.
  • 1982: one of the main activities of INTERPOL is the processing of personal data, names and fingerprints. Guided by a legal framework, it protects individual rights among international police networks. Furthermore, INTERPOL ensures that it refines these rules and regulations often.
  • 1986: An unfortunate incident occurred on 16 May 1986. An extremist group (Direct Action) attacked the INTERPOL’s General Secretariat building. Only a policeman on duty was injured while the building was extensively damaged. Four leaders from the extremist group were captured and tried in connection to the attack in 1998.
  • 1989: INTERPOL’s membership hit 150 countries, a huge milestone for the organization. Also, the General Secretariat moved to premises in Lyon, with the inauguration done by Francois Mitterand, France’s President.
  • 1993: The General Secretariat set up a criminal intelligence unit to enable analysts to study the trends and links between criminal activities, suspects, and locations.
  • 1999: Diversity growth was part of INTERPOL’s growth. Documentations from the meetings are therefore available in four main languages; French, English, Spanish, and Arabic. These are the official languages that INTERPOL communicates with the members.
  • 2000: INTERPOL introduced AFIS- Automated Fingerprint Identification System that helps reduce the time needed to check the individual fingerprint.
  • 2001: the unfortunate terrorist attack on US soil affected how INTERPOL functioned. Its operations ran round the clock. Consequently, INTERPOL is now more reactive and functions better to assist police in member countries during the crisis. Also, this year, INTERPOL’s Child Abuse Database came into use.
  • 2002: Member countries needed a secure platform to share and access information. The I-24/7 forms the backbone of all secure communications between countries. It also gives the local police access to INTERPOL’s wide range of databases. Also, during this year, INTERPOL launched the SLTD, intending to help member countries ensure that their borders are secure and protect citizens from terrorists using fake identities. In addition, INTERPOL created a DNA database this year.
  • 2003: INTERPOL set up the CCC- Command and Coordination Centre, for member countries seeking an emergency response, urgent authority information, or facing a crisis.
  • 2004: Partnering with other international organizations is crucial for INTERPOL’s success in rendering its services. This year, INTERPOL opened an office at the UN in New York.
  • 2005: Publication of INTERPOL’s first special INTERPOL Notice happened in 2005. Local authorities were alerted of sanctions against people such as asset freezing or travel bans.
  • 2007: The first-ever appeal for help to the public to help identify a man in child abuse images. He was captured and arrested in Thailand after the reversal of the photo, which appeared to obscured
  • 2008: During natural disasters such as Typhoon Frank in the Philippines, INTERPOL sent an Incident Response Team composed of DNA experts that helped identify victims.
  • 2009: In a bid to bring together police within similar regions, the General Secretariat had 7 offices in 2009.
  • 2010: INTERPOL’s Major Event Support Teams help member countries implement security arrangements during international events, for example, when South Africa hosted the FIFA world cup in 2010.
  • 2012: A notable year in the history of INTERPOL when Mireille Ballestrazzi became President of INTERPOL.
  • 2013: During this year, there was a seizing of almost 30 tonnes of illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin during Operation Lionfish.
  • 2015: A cutting-edge research institute that helps identify Interpol’s most wanted persons opened in Singapore. The facility’s inauguration was in April 2015.
  • 2016: Facial recognition went live to complement the fingerprints and DNA tools. The feature was able to identify a person by comparing and analyzing facial features such as patterns, shapes, and proportions.
  • 2019: INTERPOL launched the I-CORE program to reinforce INTERPOL as a global police hub. It enables local police to share information with ease and in a secure way.
  • 2020: During the COVID-19 pandemic, INTERPOL supported the law enforcement agency in the member countries. Some criminals took advantage of the pandemic. Therefore, INTERPOL issued guidelines to help the local police identify and address crimes associated with the pandemic.
  • 2021: During this year, INTERPOL launched the I-Familia database. It helps identify missing persons or unknown human remains using family members’ DNA samples. Though a complex process, INTERPOL plays a unique role in being a global organization. In addition, by 2021, INTERPOL had a cumulative of 25 presidents from 18 nations.
  • 2022: International financial crime continues to grow exponentially. Its effect is impeding economic growth and causing losses to businesses. INTERPOL launched the IFCACC to help curb this problem. In addition, the General Assembly resolved to have an International Police date to recognize their efforts in fighting crime globally. The selected day is 7 September, commemorating when ICPC started in 1923.

Who makes up INTERPOL?

A General Secretariat coordinates daily operations in INTERPOL to fight crimes. INTERPOL is run by a Secretary-General, and the staff includes national police officers and civilians. The headquarters are in Lyon, France, with several satellite offices worldwide.
Each of the 195 member states has a National Central Bureau that provides a central point of contact for other National Central Bureaus and the General Secretariat. In addition, the General Assembly brings together the member states once a year to deliberate on issues.

Connecting police

For INTERPOL to succeed, there needs to be coordination between the local authorities in each member country for an international arrest warrant, etc. INTERPOL’s I-24/7 communication system connects all member states. It gives them secure networks to communicate and access databases in real time.

The international criminal police organization also coordinates police networks, INTERPOL agents, and experts in diverse criminal cases, hence the need for regular meetings among the national police force. They come together and share ideas and experiences to assist each other.

What does INTERPOL do?

A General Secretariat manages the daily operations of INTERPOL, which include providing expertise and services to all member states. In addition, INTERPOL manages international police databases with data and information on crimes. This information is accessible and available in real time to the member states.

INTERPOL offers support such as forensics and analysis in locating criminals worldwide. All staff members need to be well-trained to offer the services efficiently. Since crime evolves, INTERPOL keeps an eye on emerging crime trends through research.

INTERPOL's FAQ

Who controls INTERPOL?
The General Secretariat directs daily operations, but a Secretary General runs the show. The overall authority is the President, elected into office by the General Assembly. The General Assembly meets yearly and constitutes a delegate from each member state.
What does INTERPOL stand for?
It stands for International Criminal Police Organization. It is an intergovernmental organization with 195 member countries. It's the world's largest international police force that helps national police forces in all nations in working together in a bid to make our world a safer place. They share data and information on criminals and current crimes through a secure network.
What kind of police is INTERPOL?
They are international police in 195 member countries cooperating to fight international crime. It INTERPOL facilitates cross-border police cooperation that helps bring criminal gangs to justice on all major types of crime, including human trafficking, cyber-attacks, and money laundering.
Who pays INTERPOL?
Funding for INTERPOL's activities is mostly from governmental sources. There are two main income sources; member country statutory contributions and voluntary funding. In addition, each member country has to make an obligatory payment, as agreed during General Assembly meetings. INTERPOL's total income in 2021 was 137 million Euros.
What Is Interpol's Main Purpose?
INTERPOL is the largest police force organization globally with 195 member states. It started in 1923 and enables police cooperation across borders while supporting the local authorities to prevent and curb international crime.
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