International Policing

Law enforcement, the military and policing the “Other”: Why the paramilitary organizational structure of law enforcement agencies cannot be successfully transposed into the international arena. 

Transnational criminal organizations, the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the pursuit of Osama bin Laden not only raises concerns for the need for the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) but also raises the question of who should comprise the “international police force” to apprehend the accused that are to be tried? The concern is that the "justice" being meted out to war criminals (and other transnational criminals) is American justice (or whomever has the strength to do it) rather than as a sanctioned, international community effort, a concern that applies to enforcement issues as well.

The policing function varies from country to country. Frequently, what is referred to as a “police force” is little more than the henchmen of a dictator or the state military in police uniforms. In crucial respects, the law enforcement administrations of western democracies are no different, from training, to administration, to enforcement; there is a heavy infusion of the military mindset. This military mindset was instilled into modern police forces from the very beginning of their creation. In response to increasing lawlessness in London’s streets but fearful of involving Britain’s troops against her own citizens (a reflection of the revulsion of Cromwell's Protectorate), Sir Robert Peel initiated the paramilitary “professional” police force for modern policing. Ex-military personnel, who brought with them a need to combat an enemy, an “other”, staffed this new force. Australia, Canada and the United States followed this model and still follow it with the hierarchical structure of command, control and obedience.

For law enforcement agencies the “other” has been variously identified throughout time as street gangs, organized crime at the time of prohibition, communists during the cold war, drug rings/gangs, and now, terrorists. The “other” is essential to policing as an organizational structure as it now exists but is not necessarily inherent to the policing function itself. In fact, the limitations of the extant policing model will be evident when compared to the requirements needed to bring into existence an international police agency that has legitimacy in the international community. The creation of an international police agency necessitates a paradigm shift from state derived authority to professional autonomy and authority that is internationally recognized and respected.

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