What is Interpol?

Felicia Dye

Interpol describes itself as the world’s largest international policing organization. This organization helps prevent people from committing crimes in one country and using international borders as a barrier to prevent prosecution. Most countries in the world are members of Interpol.

Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town, South Africa.

This organization allows foreign enforcement authorities to work together. It also provides a centralized source of assistance and information. The organization has four core functions. First, there is the global police communications service. This enables policing authorities from member countries to request and submit information. As a result, policing authorities have an efficient way to share and access information.

Interpol helps prevent organized crime.
Interpol helps prevent organized crime.

The second core function is maintaining and updating databases that can be accessed and used by international policing authorities. These databases contain information including notices of wanted individuals, alerts of stolen documents, and counterfeiting trends. Interpol’s color coded notice system can quickly and efficiently inform agencies as to the nature of a notice. For example, a United Nations (UN) special notice refers to information regarding individuals or organizations who are the subject of UN sanctions.

Interpol makes it possible for foreign law enforcement authorities to work together.
Interpol makes it possible for foreign law enforcement authorities to work together.

Interpol’s third core function is to provide support in emergency situations or with regards to crimes that the organization has identified as priority areas. For example, in 2009, Interpol was involved in helping arrange and execute an operation to assist children engaged in forced labor on cocoa plantations in West Africa.

The fourth core function of this organization is to help member countries build and improve upon their policing capabilities. Training programs are often offered to strengthen or educate enforcement agencies on certain issues. In 2009, training sessions were offered on topics such as human trafficking, organized crime, and bioterrorism.

Interpol is led by a president who serves four-year terms. The votes that determine who the president will be are derived from the General Assembly. The General Assembly is the governing body of the organization, which is composed of delegates from the member countries. The position of Interpol president has been held by people from all over the world, including South Africa, Canada, and the Philippines.

The organization is governed by a Constitution. The Constitution outlines the aims of Interpol and specifies its limitations. One such expressed limitation forbids the organization from becoming involved in political, military, religious, and racial activities.

The organization maintains a website. Some of the information available to policing agencies is also available to the general public online. This includes criminal alerts, notices of successful operations, and news updates.

Interpol sometimes offers trainign sessions on the topic of human trafficking.
Interpol sometimes offers trainign sessions on the topic of human trafficking.

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Discussion Comments


@grumpyguppy- It is my understanding that individuals can join Interpol, not only countries. There is a list of guidelines on the Interpol headquarters webpage. I think that the U.S. Marshals and the fugitive task forces work closely with Interpol, as well.


Great article. I had heard of Interpol before but I never really knew what it was. I noticed in the article that it said "most" countries are members of Interpol. What do you have to do to be a member? Why would a country not want to be a member?

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