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International Criminal Police Organization

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International Criminal Police Organization

This article is about the police organization. For other uses, see Interpol (disambiguation).
For the band, see Interpol (band).
International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL
Common name Interpol
Abbreviation ICPO
Logo of the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL.
Agency overview
Formed 7 September 1923
Employees 703 (2012)[1]
Annual budget €70 million (2012)[2]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
International agency
Countries 190 member states
Governing body Interpol General Assembly
Constituting instrument ICPO-INTERPOL Constitution and General Regulations
General nature
  • Law enforcement
  • Civilian agency
Operational structure
Headquarters Lyon, France
Agency executives
  • Mireille Balestrazzi, President
  • , Secretary General
National Central Bureaus 190

Coordinates: 45°46′56″N 4°50′54″E / 45.78219°N 4.84838°E / 45.78219; 4.84838 The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO, French: Organisation internationale de Police Criminelle – OIPC), or INTERPOL, is an intergovernmental organization facilitating international police cooperation. It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) in 1923 and adopted its telegraphic address as its common name in 1956.[3]

Interpol has an annual budget of around €70 million most of which is provided through annual contributions by its membership of 190 countries. The organization's headquarters is in Lyon, France. It is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations by member states. In 2012, the Interpol General Secretariat employed a staff of 703 representing 98 member countries.[1] Its current Secretary-General is Ronald Noble, a former United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. Succeeding Khoo Boon Hui, its current President is Deputy Central Director of the French Judicial Police Mireille Balestrazzi.

To keep Interpol as politically neutral as possible, its constitution forbids it, at least in theory, from undertaking interventions or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial nature.[4] Its work focuses primarily on public safety, terrorism, organized crime, crimes against humanity, environmental crime, genocide, war crimes, piracy, illicit traffic in works of art, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer crime, intellectual property crime and corruption.


In the first part of the 20th century, several efforts were taken to formalize international police cooperation, but they initially failed. Among these efforts were the First International Criminal Police Congress in Monaco in 1914[5] and the International Police Conference in New York in 1922. The Monaco Congress failed because it was organized by legal experts and political officials, not by police professionals, while the New York Conference failed to attract international attention. In 1923, another initiative was taken at the International Criminal Police Congress in Vienna where the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) was founded as the direct forerunner of Interpol. Founding members were Poland, Austria, Belgium, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. [6] The United States did not join Interpol until 1938, although a US police officer unofficially attended the 1923 congress.[7] The United Kingdom joined in 1928.[8]

Following the Anschluss (Austria's annexation by Germany) in 1938, the organization fell under the control of Nazi Germany, and the Commission's headquarters were eventually moved to Berlin in 1942. From 1938 to 1945, the presidents of Interpol included Otto Steinhäusl, Reinhard Heydrich, Arthur Nebe, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. All were generals in the SS, and Kaltenbrunner was the highest ranking SS officer executed after the Nuremberg Trials.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the organization was revived as the International Criminal Police Organization by officials from Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Its new headquarters were established in Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris. They remained there until 1989, when they were moved to their present location in Lyon.

Until the 1980s Interpol did not intervene in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in accordance with Article 3 of its Constitution forbidding intervention in "political" matters.[9]

In July 2010, former Interpol President Jackie Selebi was found guilty of corruption by the South African High Court in Johannesburg for accepting bribes worth €156,000 from a drug trafficker.[10] After being charged in January 2008, Selebi resigned as president of Interpol and was put on extended leave as National Police Commissioner of South Africa.[11] He was replaced by Arturo Herrera Verdugo, the National Commissioner of Investigations Police of Chile and former vice president for the American Zone, who remained acting president until October 2008 and the appointment of Khoo Boon Hui.[12]

On November 8, 2012, the 81st INTERPOL General Assembly closed with the election of Deputy Central Director of the French Judicial Police Mireille Balestrazzi as the new president of the organization. She is Interpol's first female president.[13]


The role of Interpol is defined by the general provisions of its constitution.

Article 2 states that its role is:

  1. To ensure and promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities within the limits of the laws existing in the different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  2. To establish and develop all institutions likely to contribute effectively to the prevention and suppression of ordinary law crimes.

Article 3 states:[14]

It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.


I­nterpol differs from most law-enforcement agencies—agents do not make arrests themselves, and there is no single Interpol jail where criminals are taken. The agency functions as an administrative liaison between the law-enforcement agencies of the member countries, providing communications and database assistance. This is vital when fighting international crime because language, cultural and bureaucratic differences can make it difficult for officers of different nations to work together. For example, if ICE and FBI special agents track a terrorist to Italy, they may not know whom to contact in the Polizia di Stato, if the Carabinieri have jurisdiction over some aspect of the case, or who in the Italian government must be notified of the ICE/FBI's involvement. ICE and FBI can contact the Interpol National Central Bureau in Italy, which acts as a liaison between the United States and Italian law-enforcement agencies.

Interpol's databases help law enforcement see the big picture of international crime. While other agencies have their own extensive crime databases, the information rarely extends beyond one nation's borders. Interpol can track criminals and crime trends around the world. They maintain collections of fingerprints and mug shots, lists of wanted persons, DNA samples and travel documents. Their lost and stolen travel document database alone contains more than 12 million records. They also analyze all these data and release information on crime trends to the member countries.

A secure worldwide communications network allows Interpol agents and member countries to contact each other at any time. Known as I-24/7, the network offers constant access to Interpol's databases. While the National Central Bureaus are the primary access sites to the network, some member countries have expanded it to key areas such as airports and border access points. Member countries can also access each other's criminal databases via the I-24/7 system.

Interpol issued more than 12,000 notices in 2012 of which 8,136 were Red Notices compared to 3,131 in 2007 and 1,212 in 2002.[1]

In the event of an international disaster, terrorist attack or assassination, Interpol can send an Incident Response Team (IRTs). IRTs can offer a range of expertise and database access to assist with victim identification, suspect identification and the dissemination of information to other nations' law enforcement agencies. In addition, at the request of local authorities, they can act as a central command and logistics operation to coordinate other law enforcement agencies involved in a case. Such teams were deployed 10 times in 2012.[1] Interpol began issuing its own travel documents in 2009 with hopes that member states would remove visa requirements for individuals travelling for Interpol business, thereby improving response times.[15]


In 2012 Interpol's operating income was €70 million, of which 74% was statutory contributions by member countries and 21% came from externally funded projects, private foundations and commercial enterprises.[1] From 2004 to 2010 Interpol's external auditors was the French Court of Audit.[16][17] In November 2010 the Court of Audit was replaced by the Office of the Auditor General of Norway for a three year term with an option for a further three years.[18][19]


Despite its political neutral stance, some have criticized the agency for its role in arrests that critics contend were politically motivated.[20] An example involved journalist Hamza Kashgari, who in February of 2012 fled his home country of Saudi Arabia to avoid prosecution for apostasy, and was subsequently arrested in Malaysia.[21][22] The Royal Malaysian Police initially asserted that they had arrested Kashgari because they had received a Interpol Red Notice request to do so. However, Interpol stated that no such notice had been issued, and the Malaysian police retracted their claim.[22][23]


The current emblem of Interpol was adopted in 1950 and comprises the following elements:[3]

  • the globe indicates worldwide activity
  • the olive branches represent peace
  • the sword represents police action
  • the scales signify justice

Member states and sub-bureaus

Sub-bureaus shown in italics.

Non-member independent countries


In addition to its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, Interpol maintains seven regional bureaus:[1]

Interpol's Command and Coordination Centres offer a 24/7 point of contact for national police forces seeking urgent information or facing a crisis. The original is in Lyon with a second in Buenos Aires added in September 2011. A third is scheduled to open in Singapore in September 2014.[25]

Interpol opened a Special Representative Office to the United Nations in New York in 2004[26] and to the European Union in Brussels in 2009.[27]

The organization is currently constructing the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (ICGI) in Singapore to act as its research and development facility. It is due to became operational in September 2014.[28]

Secretaries-general and presidents

Secretaries-general since organization's inception in 1923:

Austria Oskar Dressler 1923–1946
France Louis Ducloux 1946–1951
France Marcel Sicot 1951–1963
France Jean Népote 1963–1978
France André Bossard 1978–1985
United Kingdom Raymond Kendall 1985–2000
United States Ronald Noble 2000–present

Presidents since organization's inception in 1923:

Austria Johann Schober 1923–1932
Austria Franz Brandl 1932–1934
Austria Eugen Seydel 1934–1935
Austria Michael Skubl 1935–1938
Nazi Germany Otto Steinhäusl 1938–1940
Nazi Germany Reinhard Heydrich 1940–1942
Nazi Germany Arthur Nebe 1942–1943
Nazi Germany Ernst Kaltenbrunner 1943–1945
Belgium Florent Louwage 1945–1956
Portugal Agostinho Lourenço 1956–1960
United Kingdom Richard Jackson 1960–1963
Finland Fjalar Jarva 1963–1964
Belgium Firmin Franssen 1964–1968
West Germany Paul Dickopf 1968–1972
Canada William Leonard Higgitt 1972–1976
Sweden Carl Persson 1976–1980
Philippines Jolly Bugarin 1980–1984
United States John Simpson 1984–1988
France Ivan Barbot 1988–1992
Canada Norman Inkster 1992–1994
Sweden Björn Eriksson 1994–1996
Japan Toshinori Kanemoto 1996–2000
Spain Jesús Espigares Mira 2000–2004
South Africa Jackie Selebi 2004–2008
Chile Arturo Herrera Verdugo acting president until the General Assembly in Saint Petersburg in October 2008, and candidate for the President on that General Assembly
Singapore Khoo Boon Hui Oct 2008–2012
France Mireille Balestrazzi Nov 2012–2016

See also



External links

  • Interpol – Official website
  • Deflem, Mathieu. 2000. "Bureaucratization and Social Control: Historical Foundations of International Policing." Law & Society Review 34(3):601–640.
  • Deflem, Mathieu. 2002. "The Logic of Nazification: The Case of the International Criminal Police Commission (Interpol)." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 43(1):21–44.
  • Deflem, Mathieu, and Lindsay C. Maybin. 2005. "Interpol and the Policing of International Terrorism: Developments and Dynamics since September 11." Pp. 175–191 in Terrorism: Research, Readings, & Realities, edited by Lynne L. Snowden and Brad Whitsel. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
  • Barnett, Michael, and Coleman, Liv. 2005. "Designing Police: Interpol and the Study of Change in International Organizations." International Studies Quarterly 49(4):593–620.
  • Deflem, Mathieu. 2009. "Interpol." pp. 179–181 in The Sage Dictionary of Policing, edited by Alison Wakefield and Jenny Fleming. London: Sage Publications.
  • Deflem, Mathieu. 2012. "Interpol." pp. 956–958 in The Encyclopedia of Global Studies, edited by Helmut K. Anheier and Mark Juergensmayer. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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