Innovation a key issue as world police chiefs meet at Europol
This week, Europol confirmed its position as the centre of the European policing world as police chiefs and senior law enforcement representatives from the European Union and key partner countries convened to Europol’s headquarters for the 2022 European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC).
Co-hosted this year by Europol and the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, represented by their Police President Martin Vondrášek, on 4-5 October the EPCC brought together over 380 high-level representatives from 49 countries to discuss ways to address today’s security challenges while securing tomorrow’s opportunities.
Keynote speeches were delivered by the Director General of the Spanish National Police Francisco Pardo Piqueras, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner and the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Michael O'Flaherty, among others.
Opening the EPCC, Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, commented:
The pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have profoundly changed the internal security landscape in Europe. More than ever, law enforcement needs to be resilient in such uncertain times. This resilience is not only built through countering the threats which have materialised, but also preparing for the ones which are still on the horizon. Europol’s EPCC allows for this cooperation to happen on every level while showing the way forward for law enforcement.
The topic of Ukraine was high up on this year’s agenda. In a moving address, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, explained how Ukrainian law enforcement has had to learn to work in new, difficult conditions. Yet their overarching goal remains the same – to protect people’s lives. Europol’s Executive Director assured him of the full support of the European law enforcement community who has continued to maintain close contact with the Ukrainian authorities through the Ukrainian Liaison Officer posted at Europol’s headquarters.
Keynote speakers also underlined the need to innovate, to strengthen resilience of police forces, and to win back the trust and support of the public communities. In this regard, the NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell highlighted the importance of inclusivity in law enforcement, pointing out that "the public has to see themselves in the communities we serve, and we must see ourselves in them”. Commissioner Sewell went on to add that “inclusion strengthens the collective and interconnects the stakeholders of public safety. When we diversify, we normalise the unusual.”
This was echoed in the keynote address of the Italian Deputy Director-General of Public Security, Vittorio Rizzi, who called for a greater exchange of best practices on the matter. “Law enforcement needs the societal consensus to administer the most precious responsibility entrusted to police forces in every democracy: the safety and security of our communities”, he added.
The European Customs DG meeting also took place alongside the EPCC, with the police-customs cooperation being one of the priorities of the Czech Presidency.
One place to meet all
With high-level delegations from over 49 countries and 10 organisations, the EPCC has become the key annual event for chiefs of police to meet their European and international peers all under one roof.
Bilateral and multilateral meetings took place at Europol’s headquarters, allowing the delegates to discuss operational matters and further strengthen their cooperation.
Working Arrangement with Qatar
On the margins of the EPCC, a Working Arrangement was signed between the Ministry of Interior of the State of Qatar and Europol. This Arrangement introduces a secure system for the exchange of information between Qatar with law enforcement authorities of the EU Member States, as well as with third countries and organisations associated with Europol. This follows a Liaison Officer Agreement signed in September by Europol and the United Arab Emirates, further linking the Middle East with their European counterparts.
Innovation as the main driving force
The need for innovation underpinned all of this year’s EPCC discussions, with law enforcement increasingly having to operate in a digital environment characterised by ever increasing volumes of information.
Artificial intelligence (AI) was one such topic discussed, with the delegates confirming the concerns raised in the Joint Declaration of European Police Chiefs on the AI Act of May 2022. While the Police Chiefs welcome the European’s Commission’s initiative to regulate AI, they believe it essential that the rules adopted take into account the specificities of the operational work carried out by law enforcement.
A workshop was also dedicated to policing the metaverse. While this virtual environment is still at an early stage, the delegates assessed and anticipated its potential criminal exploitation to develop the right response and skills needed to mitigate such a threat. A number of the key findings can be found in the latest report of the Observatory Function of the Europol Innovation Lab on the topic.
Two exhibitions were unveiled at Europol’s headquarters on the occasion of the EPCC:
• The Czech Presidency showcased its new technological advances, such as drones, biometric sets and radiation detection equipment aimed to make law enforcement work more efficient and accurate.
• The Italian Arma dei Carabinieri presented artefacts rescued in police operations against the trafficking of cultural goods. The archaeological goods on show include a Corinthian helmet, a marble Arturo Dazzi statue stolen from a private chapel and an Etruscan stamnos. This exhibition will be made open to the public on the occasion of the Just Peace Open Day organised on 16 October by the Hague Humanity Hub.