Top police chiefs have met at Europol to discuss how to deliver effective policing with fewer resources – an issue faced by most forces due to austerity measures in the current global economic crisis.
Discussions took place during the 2012 European Police Chiefs’ Convention at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague on 30 and 31 May, co-hosted by Europol and the Danish National Police in the context of the Danish EU Presidency. High level representatives were present from 34 European countries as well as Australia, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and the USA. Representatives from Interpol, EU agencies and institutions were also present.
“I am impressed with how openly and frankly the different police chiefs exchanged ideas on how to ‘do more with less’. As criminal groups are moving with the times we must do likewise, and we have definitely gained new insights around the concept of smart policing during this year’s European Police Chiefs Convention,” said Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The Danish National Commissioner of Police raised similar issues. “Besides budgets it is also about showing leadership when managing the required changes when it comes to organisational structures and prioritisation,” said Jens Henrik Hoejbjerg.
Despite budget cuts, most forces strive to avoid laying-off personnel. A reduction in salaries has been necessary in some countries, while in others savings have been achieved by cancelling or postponing the acquisition of new equipment, infrastructure projects and training activities.
Police chiefs welcomed suggestions to mitigate cost-cutting measures at national level by making more use of the centralised services provided at EU level. The establishment of a new European Cybercrime Centre at Europol is a good example of a service which will reduce the need for EU Member States to develop expensive and specialised services.
“We see that financial constraints are making citizens more receptive to buying illicit goods online and offline. Individuals on tight budgets are becoming more vulnerable to corruption and other criminal activities. Meanwhile, organised crime groups are seeking to exploit current economic conditions, turning to new ways of making illicit profits. Their activities threaten to undermine current efforts to secure economic recovery in Europe. As law enforcement chiefs, we are clear that we need to play our part in helping these economic efforts by ensuring organised crime does not succeed,” added Rob Wainwright.
Besides ‘smart policing’, cybercrime and itinerant crime groups were also discussed, reflecting police chiefs’ concerns about of the biggest challenges they currently face.
The first European Police Chiefs’ Convention, focusing on the future threats of organised crime and terrorism, was held to coincide with the official opening of the new Europol headquarters on 1 July 2011.