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Police Cooperation Across Jurisdictions

Summary and Keywords

Since the end of the Second World War, police cooperation has experienced several transformations affecting the conduct of law enforcement operations across jurisdictions. These critical changes emerged from global legal, political and socioeconomic trends that constantly redefining the nature, structure and the role of actors involved in policing cooperation. For instance, the creation of vast free trade zones in North America, Europe and Asia has provided an important momentum for collaboration and coordination among national justice systems and the protection of the sovereignty of states. Moreover, the evolution of transnational criminal networks and the internationalization of terrorist activities have directly contributed to the multiplication of law enforcement and intelligence initiatives that transcends local and national jurisdictions. The so-called wars on crime, drug and terrorism ranging from 1960’s to 2010’s have generated the deployment of a formidable web of policing activities across the globe. In the 21st Century, a complex assemblage of public and private actors conducts police cooperation activities. These actors operate at several levels of geographical jurisdictions and cooperate through different organizational structures and legal frameworks.

Keywords: interagency cooperation, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, private security, security governance

The Global Policing Assemblage

Today’s global policing assemblages directly contribute to the reconfiguration of the governance of security at the national level by modifying the relationship between security provisions and states’ sovereignty. The research of Abrahamsen and Williams (2009, p. 1) shows that the diversity of “private and public security agents and normativities interact, cooperate and compete, to produce new institutions, practices, and forms of security governance.” For instance, research indicates that the establishment of the European Union and its subsequent restructuring of regional economies into common markets dramatically increased the internationalization of police activity. This is due, in part, to the reconfiguration of border surveillance, the partial reform of legal systems to allow transnational policing to take place in several countries, and the creation of new structures such as Europol, Eurojust, and Frontex (Benyon, 1996; Bigo, 1996, 2002; Deflem, 2002; Lemieux, 2010). This article is divided into four sections. The first section serves as an overview of key concepts that are explored in the article, namely, policing, cooperation, and cross-jurisdiction activities. The second section examines the nature and structure of cooperation activities between public law enforcement agencies at both the national and international levels. The third section reviews the various complementary and competitive relationships between the private and public sectors. The last section examines existing challenges related to interagency cooperation.

Conceptualizing Police Cooperation

To better comprehend the variable geometry of police cooperation, it is imperative to define key concepts related to this activity. First, the notion of policing cannot be simply reduced to the traditional public mission of public police agencies existing to enforce laws and maintain order. In the 21st century, policing activities are conducted by a plurality of actors performing a wide range of actions that are sometimes loosely coupled with their missions (Jones & Newburn, 2006; Rogers, 2016). In the public realm, policing can address a diversity of issues, including noncriminal concerns from citizens, common crimes, financial crimes and counterfeiting, illegal immigration and border control, illegal trafficking, and terrorism and counterintelligence, to name a few. Private policing is also composed of a myriad of actors who operate in key industries and offer extra layers of protection to citizens, businesses, and the state. The private security sector has the capability to offer investigative and protection services that compete with the public sector in terms of reliability, expertise, and cost (Shearing & Stenning, 1983; Johnston, 2005).

Moreover, policing as a state function should not be understood as a monolithic institution. According to Brodeur (1983), policing conducted by state organizations can be divided into two categories: high and low policing. High policing refers to the activities in which the state is engaged to protect itself against physical or ideological attacks. High policing activity happens in an atmosphere of political opaqueness where the raison d’état, or reason of the state, is often claimed as trumping civil liberties and due process. A high policing model is characterized by specific elements, such as “secrecy, deception; the conflation of executive, judicial, and legislative powers; and extra legality” (Brodeur, 2010, p. 223). Low policing refers to a more democratic model in which police address more common crimes and public disorders.

According to Lemieux (2010), police cooperation is supposed to address interagency competition and investigation overlap. In reality, collaboration between law enforcement agencies is plagued by competing agendas, limited resources, and jurisdictional and discretionary information sharing. Furthermore, large, dominating agencies tend to asymmetrically influence operational decisions without regard to the sovereignty principle. Indeed, national political preoccupations dictate police cooperation in terms of dynamics, management models, and structures. Inevitably, cultural and social norms, as well as individual experiences, impact interagency relations. Research has examined the desirability of police cooperation from the following angles: as an approach to transnational crime, as an examination of the interactions between national police services, or as an analysis of the democratization challenges in the collaboration process and in upholding human rights.

Legal jurisdictions of policing refer to a mandated responsibility to enforce laws at a certain governance level. For instance, in some countries, such as the Republic of Ireland, there is one police organization responsible for the enforcement of laws and for maintaining order. In France, the responsibility is delegated to two police organizations, namely, the Police Nationale for the cities and the Gendarmerie Nationale for rural areas. In Anglo-Saxon countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, this legal responsibility is shared or exclusive to local, state (or provinces), and federal law enforcement organizations, resulting in the establishment of several police agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011), there are approximatively 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States alone.1

Legal jurisdiction can also be embedded in the mission of police organizations by legally specializing its mandate, such as in the case of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the United States or Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise (HMCE) in the United Kingdom. These differences between countries directly influence the legal framework practicalities and realities in which international police cooperation occurs. However, it is important to understand that the concept of jurisdiction is not static, may take several forms, and may change over time. For instance, some law enforcement agencies develop divergent or convergent mandates (low and high policing), security services can be offered by both private and public sectors as situational and political scenarios require, and policing can be closely associated with territorial jurisdictions (local, national, and international).

Public Policing Cooperation

This section examines the various configurations of cooperation activities at the national and international levels. First, we look at the cooperation structures and dynamics between national security intelligence agencies (high policing) at the international level. Second, we scrutinize the law enforcement (low policing) cooperation structure at the international level. Third, we explore the relationship between national security intelligence agencies and law enforcement at the domestic level. Finally, by using the United States as an example, we illustrate the different permutations of law enforcement cooperation at the domestic level.

High Policing Cooperation: International Level

High policing agency members of the so-called Five Eyes countries have a long-standing history of cooperation. The origin of the Five Eyes has roots in the post–World War II era when, in 1946, the United Kingdom and the United States formally signed a signal intelligence sharing alliance known as the UK–USA Agreement.2 According to the Agreement, the two countries agreed to exchange the content of the following operations relating to foreign communications: “collection of traffic, acquisition of communications documents and equipment, traffic analysis, cryptanalysis, decryption and translation, and acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment”.3 Between 1946 and 1956, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand joined the alliance, which became more of a collection of “UK–USA collaborating Commonwealth countries,” subsequently named the Five Eyes. The expression comes from the intelligence classification level known as “AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY” (Cox, 2012). Several other countries, named “third parties,” joined the intelligence alliance between 1955 and 1960. These include Norway, Denmark, and West Germany, among others.

During the Cold War era, the UK–USA Agreement gave birth to a worldwide signal interception network named Echelon, aimed at Chinese and Soviet military and diplomatic communications (Keefe, 2006). By the end of the Cold War, Echelon became a global surveillance network monitoring private and commercial communications.4 Members of the Five Eyes currently provide widespread geographical surveillance coverage of the world. For instance, Australia monitors communication in the East and South Asia regions; Canada intercepts signals from Russia and China and conducts intelligence activities in Latin America; New Zealand monitors communication in the Western Pacific region; the United Kingdom intercepts signals in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Hong Kong; and the United States monitors communications in the Middle East, Russia, China, the Caribbean, and Africa (Cox, 2012). However, it was only in 2005 that the UK–USA Agreement and the Echelon program became public, with the content of the Agreement fully disclosed in 2010.5

Table 1 presents a cooperation matrix of the primary national security intelligence entities from the Five Eyes countries. Despite the fact that the cooperation illustrates a high level of convergence of the Five Eyes intelligence communities, there has been no specific guidance in any strategic treaty instructing each country to collectively shape a cross-national symmetrical intelligence structure. In fact, the UK–USA Agreement is mainly focused on signal intelligence and does not address other specialized intelligence domains, the distinction between domestic and foreign intelligence, the existence of joint analysis, or the separation between military and civilian agencies.

Table 1. Matrix of National Intelligence Agencies in the Five Eyes Countries



New Zealand

United Kingdom

United States


Australian Signal Directorate

Communication Security Establishment

Government Communications Security Bureau

Government Communication Headquarters

National Security Agency


Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organization

Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre

Geoint New Zealand

Defense Intelligence Fusion Center

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency & National Reconnaissance Office

Joint Military Intelligence

Defense Intelligence Office

Canadian Intelligence Force Command

Directorate of Defense Intelligence and Security

Defense Intelligence

Defense Intelligence Agency

Foreign Intelligence

Australian Secret Intelligence Service

Some foreign intelligence activities are conducted by Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Some foreign intelligence is conducted by New Zealand Intelligence Service

Secret Intelligence Service

Central Intelligence Agency

Domestic Intelligence

Australian Intelligence Security Organization

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

New Zealand Intelligence Service (NZIS)

Security Service

No dedicated intelligence agency (FBI—Intelligence Branch does domestic national security intelligence)

Joint Analysis

Office of National Assessment

Privy Council Office (Security and Intelligence Secretariat)

National Assessment Bureau

Joint Intelligence Organization

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Low Policing Cooperation: International Level

Traditionally, the policing function has been a core competency of nation-states enforcing laws and investigating crimes within their national borders. However, challenged by international changes associated with the globalization of societies, several nation-states are attempting to shape a global governance system aimed at increasing their control or influence on priorities of other states. Often, this influence is limited by the sovereignty principle (Bjola & Kornprobst, 2011), which certainly includes the police and justice arena. More precisely, this global governance system directs police and justice relationships that extend beyond national borders—without sovereign authority—for example, by influencing or forcing other states to comply and adopt similar policies, standards, and practices (Finkelstein, 1995). This governance system is often referred to by scholars as global policing or transnational policing (Andreas & Nadelmann, 2006; Bowling & Sheptycki, 2012; Stenning & Shearing, 2012).

The globalization of policing happened gradually during the 20th century through the creation and strengthening of international police associations, forums, and supranational institutions such as Europol and Interpol (Gerspacher, 2008; Gerspacher & Lemieux, 2010). This international policing web sharply increased in the early 21st century, as nation-states intensified their actions against emerging and pressing transnational security issues such as organized crime and terrorism (Occhipinti, 2010; Sheptycki, 2000, 2011). The global policing system has evolved into an imbalanced harmonization of laws and practices between nation-states, protection of sovereignty and subsidiary principles, multiple levels of cooperation, and supranational governing structures. To navigate around the obstacles of international police cooperation and the uncertainty related to a changing world, several nation-states have deployed a network of international liaison officers.

According to Lemieux (2015), those who practice international law enforcement cooperation are representatives of national, local, and supranational police agencies. The functions performed by international liaison officers (ILOs) are critical to assisting national police agencies and executing international treaties. ILOs function in an uncertain and complex global system where nation-states try to increase their influence, perception of transnational threats evolve rapidly, and the dynamic of international relations is affected by the emergence of nonstate actors. ILOs often have blended roles that entail a high degree of discretion and informality as they process requests for information exchange, investigation, arrest, extradition, joint training, and visits of dignitaries (Nadelmann, 1993; Bigo, 2000; Den Boer & Block, 2013). In the United States, agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have established international networks composed of several hundred ILOs.

The work of ILOs can also be examined through the lens of “transgovernmental networks” (Slaughter & Hale, 2010; Crawford, 2006; Hale & Held, 2011). These networks refer to a collection of individuals who exchange information and resources, supported by shared norms of trusting behavior (Liebeskind, Oliver, Zucker, & Brewer, 1996). These networks are created through both formal and informal interorganizational collaborations (Kreiner & Schultz, 1993). Transgovernmental networks are often composed of public servants (e.g., police officers) that are linked with their foreign counterparts, forming informal groupings, or are integrated into a more formalized structure. These networks serve three main core functions: (1) to share information and best practices; (2) to coordinate and harmonize policy across jurisdictions; and (3) to enhance law enforcement capacity by pooling resources, sharing information, and carrying out joint operations (Hale & Held, 2011, pp. 37–38).

The liaison officers and other institutions facilitate and promote a collaboration that goes beyond national jurisdictions. These relatively new actors, whose position is marginal to the overall law enforcement mission of their respective police institutions, have become a sort of elite unit of police officers whose arena is purposefully international. Their stature as nonoperational, sophisticated, well-connected, and experienced police professionals allows them to have a twofold mission. They codify and institutionalize operational policing at the international level and they legitimize institutionalized approaches by persuading the political actors in their respective states to make the resulting practices into law (Bigo, 1996, 2002). A handful of states, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia, have established sophisticated investigative branches whose international duties include the enforcement of violations (such as drug trafficking) that have international implications. These states deploy a small but powerful system of liaison officers abroad and administer international police training programs. However, most countries are a long way from establishing such sophisticated networks that would allow them to both protect their interests and participate in international law enforcement initiatives.

One of the approaches to ensure smooth information sharing between sovereign states and their respective police institutions is the adoption of international cooperation agreements which subsequently evolve into the creation of intergovernmental organizations based on international treaties. The European Police Office is the intergovernmental organization with a mission to facilitate police cooperation among its membership of 28 EU states, particularly in regard to a list of transnational crimes that, as of the early 21st century, spans 18 forms of crime. Europol has enjoyed rapid development and substantial support at the political level (i.e., from EU ministers), evolving from the European Drugs Unit (EDU) in 1995 into a large secretariat that employs over 1,261 staff members and 223 liaison officers as of 2017. Compared to 2001, these numbers represent an increase of nearly 400% and 300%, respectively.6

Europol has enlarged its mandate from the inside out by developing indispensable internal tools and techniques for examining crime. As of 2018, Europol has an extensive array of products, including analysis and assessment, along with a sophisticated communication system using state-of-the-art technology and highly skilled police professionals who monitor the system and promote its use and accuracy. As a result, this international body has become a knowledge broker whose ability to initiate, lead, and support has surpassed the confines of its own mandate drafted in 1995 Participation in the information-sharing system has increased dramatically, even among those countries that were initially very reluctant to do so. Further, Europol represents a regional initiative that responded to the limitations that heterogeneity and size of countries placed on their ability to foster international police cooperation. Europol has enlarged its intelligence-sharing capacity through informal entrepreneurship and initiatives that promote the development of national information flow systems, knowledge, and expertise in fighting transnational crime from a strategic perspective. Its developmental curve has not reached a plateau yet, as it has encountered challenges to its organization and structure, including its lack of built-in accountability (Bruggeman, 2002; Den Boer, 2008).

In 2017, Europol officially launched its guide for Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). The primary purpose of these JITs is to conduct criminal investigations involving two or more European Union member states. JITs allow law enforcement and prosecutors involved in a criminal investigation to exchange intelligence and evidence without using cumbersome legal frameworks such as the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLA). The JITs structure allows “members of the team to be present and to take part—within the limits foreseen by national legislation and/or specified by the JIT leader—in investigative measures conducted outside their State of origin” (Council of the European Council, 2017, p. 4). This structure makes JITs a unique tool of international police cooperation across the European Union.

Another multilateral forum is the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-Interpol). Interpol is an apolitical organization whose contributions to the fight against transnational crime includes a secure intranet to facilitate communication between foreign police colleagues; the diffusion of arrest warrants; the standardized criminalization of certain offences; the negotiation of cooperation agreements; and a provision of guidance which is especially attractive to developing or transitioning countries (Bressler, 1992; Fooner, 1989). Since international police structures and mechanisms rely on institutional interdependence among police institutions, professional expertise, and the efficiency of structures (Deflem, 2002), Interpol emphasizes the coordination and networking benefits inherent in the global rule of law enforcement (Deflem, 2006). The Interpol secretariat, with its network of liaison officers dispersed in several regions of the world and its National Central Bureaus together, represents the most important global police cooperation structure. Another example of an international cooperative body, though less recent, is the Police and Custom Cooperation Centre (PCCC). More than 40 PCCCs have been established to ensure that Schengen state members’ law enforcement agencies can cooperate with countries outside of the Schengen area (Gruszczak, 2016). This bilateral form of cooperation involves exchanges of intelligence, joint operations, and controls, and the planning of coordinated security actions.

Another important transnational agency, Frontex, has been created to integrate the national border security systems of member states against a variety of threats that could potentially occur at or through an external border of the European Union member states. This agency promotes a pan-European model of “integrated border security” based on (1) information and cooperation between member states on immigration and repatriation; (2) surveillance, border checks, and risk analysis; (3) cooperation with border guards, customs, and police authorities in non-EU neighboring countries; and (4) cooperation with third-party countries such as the United States and its Department of Homeland Security (Frontex, 2008).

High and Low Policing Cooperation: Domestic Level

At the national level, low and high policing activities are integrated in task forces or centers. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) leads the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), bringing together criminal and national security intelligence focused on counterterrorism efforts. The JTTF mission is to detect, investigate, and collect intelligence and arrest individuals engaged in or having the intent to engage in terrorist activities. According to Deflem (2010), there are approximately 100 regional JTTF units operating across the United States, with a total of 4,000 officers. This prominent interagency initiative combines the intelligence and investigative capabilities of several law enforcement agencies and national security intelligence agencies in the United States. In addition to the FBI, JTTF units include the participation of 55 agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, state and municipal police agencies, and diverse U.S military agencies.7 Structures like the JTTF also exist in Australia with the Australian Federal Police’s Joint Counter-Terrorism Teams, in Canada with Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, and in the United Kingdom with the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network.

Finally, in the United States, some of the high policing activities are coordinated through the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), which aims at “analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States Government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism,” with the exception of domestic terrorists. The NCTC integrates all instruments of national power, including diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement activities within and among agencies. The NCTC serves the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) “as the nation’s primary organization for analysis of foreign-sponsored terrorism and to plan and assign counterterrorism roles and responsibilities to the departments and agencies to perform under their own unique authorities.”8

Low Policing Cooperation: Domestic Level

The United States offers a unique laboratory of sorts in which to study domestic law enforcement cooperation due to its highly decentralization police system. Several interagency cooperation initiatives have been instituted to circumvent the limitations of a decentralized police system and foster better cooperation and coordination across all levels of law enforcement jurisdictions. The establishment of police task forces is a common form of such cooperation across different levels of jurisdictions (local, state, and federal), allowing several agencies to temporarily pool and focus resources on pressing law enforcement issues (such as drug trafficking, gang violence, and illegal immigration).

There are several task force initiatives that have been developed and are led by each of the major federal law enforcement agencies. For instance, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operates a state and local task force program which included 271 law enforcement agencies as of 2016.9 These drug task forces are supported by the DEA and allow partnering state and local agencies to share resources, expertise, and intelligence regarding drug trafficking activities.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), operated by the Department of Justice (Attorney General’s office), include the 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service; the U.S. Coast Guard; the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Criminal and Tax Divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice; and numerous state and local agencies. The primary mission of the OCDETF is to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering operations and other for-profit crime.10

Another example of a cooperative task force is the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Forces Initiative, which aims at finding and capturing dangerous fugitives as well as assisting other law enforcement agencies in complex investigations involving a fugitive. The task force requires a continuous flow of intelligence from all partnering agencies in order to locate fugitives. The Fugitive Task Forces Initiative is divided into seven regional chapters (New York and New Jersey, Pacific and Southwest, Great Lakes, Southeast, Capital Area, Gulf Coast, and Florida and the Caribbean) and integrates federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The Fugitive Task Forces Initiative also collaborates with other federal task forces such as the OCDETF and Project Safe Neighborhood. In 2015, the U.S. Marshals Service reported that they had arrested over 99,700 federal, state, and local fugitives and cleared over 119,100 warrants.11

Another well-known cooperation initiative is the creation of fusion centers, which were initially designed in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, with the objective to “share terrorism information among law enforcement, the private sector and the intelligence community” (Carter & Carter, 2009, p. 1323). However, because terrorist threats were relatively low across the United States, the fusion centers progressively began to address other forms of cross-jurisdictional and complex criminality associated with organized crime and youth gangs. The criminal intelligence needs and priorities of local law enforcement agencies became a major driver in structuring and staffing the fusion centers across the United States (Masse & Rollins, 2007; Nenneman, 2008). There are currently more than 70 fusion centers, operating mostly in major urban areas.12

Public and Private Policing Cooperation

The practice of private actors engaged in the delivery of security services has origins that can be traced back to ancient times, where individuals were specifically hired to protect farming lands and cattle against outside aggressors (George & Kimber, 2014). Though the private sector security industry has experienced continuous cycles of growth and decline throughout history, researchers have characterized the 20th century in particular as a period of rebirth and intense growth for private security (Johnston, 2005; Jones & Newburn, 1998). In terms of sectors, private security activities are spread broadly across several areas and continue to expand. A report published in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Justice analyzed the private security markets and actors in the United States.13 The report estimates that the number of contract security firms varies between 10,000 and 14,000, depending on sources and years. The activities of these firms are mainly concentrated in six markets: critical infrastructure, commercial, institutional, residential, government, and military. The following section examines the format of existing configurations of the partnership between public and private entities. It outlines how the private and public sectors interact together under different contractual structures and how the balance between opportunities and shortcomings is maintained.

Private Sector and Low Policing

The relationship between private and public policing has long been described as “competitive” (Hannon, 1998), “complementary” (Johnston, 2005), and “divided” based on the types of services or legal boundaries (Shearing & Stenning, 1981; Cunningham et al., 1990; Shearing, 1992; Sarre, 2014). For instance, The economic downturn of 2008 had a direct impact on North American law enforcement agencies at three levels: (1) reductions of police staffing through layoffs, mandatory furloughs, staffing attrition, and reductions in the ratio of police officers by population served; (2) changes in organizational management through consolidation of local police departments (mergers); and (3) transformations of the delivery of services, such as integrating more civilian personnel, recruiting volunteers, incorporating technology to operational decision making, and enhancing collaboration between the police and the private sector (COPS, 2011).

Some public police organizations have been mandated to find ways to reduce their operational costs or to find alternative sources of funding. Several police agencies in North America have therefore developed a la carte services for which police work is now remunerated by a third-party agency to accommodate special security needs—such as highway escorts for oversized freight, urban festivals and concerts, and VIP protection, among others (Gans, 2000; Grabosky, 2004; Ayling & Shearing, 2008).

Relations between private and public security agencies can also be characterized by partnerships in which both sectors work collaboratively on specific projects such as large-scale public events (e.g., sports and concerts). The partnership can also be formalized and institutionalized, creating a symbiosis between private and public security such as prisoner custody in police jails and the correction system in Australia (Golsby, 1998, Sarre & Prenzler, 2000). Another example is the collaboration of public police and private security firms offering protection services to gated communities in the United States. Such relationships entail daily information exchange about crime activity through formalized communication channels.

Private Sector and High Policing

It is essential to note, however, that at the end of the 1990s and, more importantly, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the private security sector took on a completely new intelligence role in the war against terror. Many corporations, mainly in the United States and the United Kingdom, created a business opportunity by offering intelligence services, thereby building an industrial intelligence complex (Shorrock, 2008). The resulting relationship between private corporations and public agencies can take several forms and entails complex dynamics in which boundaries can either be blurred or starkly asserted. These dynamics can be understood in three forms: (1) extension of intelligence functions; (2) expansion of intelligence functions; and (3) cooptation of intelligence functions.

Generally speaking, a public organization tends to outsource some of its operations when there is a critical increase for the demand of certain products or services. In other words, when public agencies become overwhelmed and are stretched too thin, they often reach out to the private sector to support some of their operations (extension). In the security sector in general, the private sector has been providing physical security services and protection of government buildings, including courtrooms and police headquarters. In this situation, the use of private security allows law enforcement to reallocate resources to more mission-critical operations, such as more effectively tackling crime and responding to the most pressing needs of the citizenry. It is also more cost effective to have an armed security guard, at an average of $15/hour, rather than a police officer paid at an average of $30/hour.14

The same rationale also applies to the intelligence field, especially in the United States. The amount of work generated in the national security and homeland security intelligence sectors can vary tremendously as a function of threat levels and the overall domestic sociopolitical environment, as well as geopolitical stability. For instance, when the United States is actively engaged in a war (such as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq) or when confronting an emerging threat (such as Al Qaeda or ISIS), the need for supplementary resources surges rapidly. In order to prioritize intelligence operations that are mission critical, government agencies must outsource some of their existing or new activities. This is exactly what happened in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

The government also tends to outsource its operations when its mission expands into sectors in which public agencies do not necessarily have the expertise to accomplish the duties with which they have been tasked (expansion). For instance, in very specialized and complex financial fraud and white-collar crime in general, law enforcement agencies frequently seek the assistance of private accounting firms with expertise in forensic accounting that can assist the investigator in finding evidence of a crime. This level of sophistication is often outside the traditional area of expertise of police investigators and requires the tapping of private expertise to compensate for the lack of such a specialized workforce in law enforcement.

Intelligence agencies also face transformations in their mission and the type of operations they must conduct in order to produce actionable insights for policy makers. For instance, growing concerns about cybersecurity and information assurance led agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Defense to outsource several collection programs to private firms that had access to more performative technology and a specialized workforce. Because of a high level of decentralization of governance and private sector dominance of several critical infrastructure sectors in the United States, as well as in other Five Eyes country members, private firms have been able to develop sophisticated techniques and have groomed a very specialized workforce in cybersecurity. As mentioned, it is a workforce that government intelligence agencies struggle to hire or retain. With a growing number of attacks and intrusions into sensitive networks requiring an expansion of their mission into cyberspace, Western intelligence agencies rely heavily on the private sector for surveillance, threat prevention, and mitigation activities.

Despite the existence of contractual agreements to outsource some intelligence functions, such as collection and analysis, the bulk of intelligence (e.g., requirements, planning, and analysis) usually remains under the control of the public sector. However, this is not always the case. Due to increasing privatization of the field, the public sector may gradually lose sole ownership of specific functions, to the benefit of the private sector (cooptation). A major area of privatization in the government in general, but also more particularly in the military sector, is in defense and weapons systems. For instance, the conception, production, and maintenance of military warships, fighter jets, armored vehicles, and ammunition are all now exclusively the domain of the private sector. Companies like ATK, BEA Systems, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, General Electric, Goodrich, KBR, Lockheed Martin, Navistar Defense, ManTech, Northrop Grumman, Pratt and Whitney, and Raytheon are the major private corporations involved in the privatization of defense and weapons systems.15

The same trends also exist in the intelligence field, where private firms are conceptualizing, producing, deploying, and often operating some of the most sophisticated intelligence collection systems related to internet communication interception, phone interception, and imagery and geospatial technologies. Government intelligence agencies also have virtually turned over all production of data analytics software and encryption programs to private corporations. In addition, the vast majority of cyber intelligence programs have been developed by the private sector. Research and development of intelligence systems is spearheaded by large private corporations such as BAE Systems, CSRA, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman.

Remaining Challenges

Several challenges modulating the configuration, dynamics, and consistency of police cooperation still exist, mostly related to legal frameworks, policies, and practices (Lemieux, 2014). Regarding legal frameworks, differences in countries’ legal systems remain one of the most important challenges to policing across borders, making this activity often inconsistent. Moreover, the reality of transnational policing is that it often operates in a legal vacuum in which actors attempt to exercise some influence in order to enforce their own domestic laws at the international level. Also, numerous states constrain police cooperation with some countries in order to protect the legal rights of their own citizens. For instance, democratic countries have limited police cooperation with nondemocratic regimes due to legal differences related to human rights, the rule of law, and due process rights. Lastly, despite the fact that barriers related to the exchange of personal information between national police forces have considerably weakened in the past few years, there are still serious concerns about privacy and civil liberties as personal data gathering increases.

Regarding policy issues at the international level, there are few common policies shaping cooperation practice, strategy, and training. This lack of standards and norms creates misunderstandings as well as false expectations among countries. Also, police cooperation mostly takes place between public law enforcement agencies and rarely integrates private security companies. Nonetheless, these actors often play a central role in international investigations related to money laundering and internet fraud, though they are not integrated or recognized formally as actors of police cooperation.

Finally, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of police cooperation practices. Several national police organizations report regularly on some outcomes from international operations (arrests and seizures), but these reports represent a very small portion of police cooperation activities. Moreover, there is no clear understanding of which cooperation practices are more effective and more respectful of legal frameworks. Additionally, there are not adequate oversight procedures to produce knowledge about possible misconduct and abuse resulting from police cooperation efforts. There is no independent civilian oversight organization to scrutinize international police cooperation activities. Also, training for international liaison officers varies considerably from one country to another, creating a broad range aptitude and (in)competency to conduct interagency cooperation tasks.

Lastly, this article has primarily examined cross-jurisdictional police cooperation in advanced democracies. Both developing countries and failed states are facing challenges regarding their capacity to provide security to the population and the sovereignty of their territory amidst various geopolitical dynamics. For instance, police cooperation and law enforcement in general are virtually nonexistent in postconflict and unstable countries, mainly due to the fact that police organizations have been decimated by armed violence and crippled by years of underfinancing. Moreover, police organizations and national security agencies often face insurmountable challenges to restore security and trust in certain parts of their territory because of past atrocities committed against the civilian population or dissident groups. Developing and failed countries face international pressure, resulting in either internal destabilization or the presence of “friendly forces” from foreign nations through international intervention. More research is certainly needed to study the dynamics and structures of cooperation between (1) foreign public security forces, (2) national public security forces, and (3) private security actors in developing countries.

Further Reading

Bowling, B., & Sheptycki, J. (2012). Global policing. London, UK: SAGE.Find this resource:

    Bradford, B., Jauregui, B., Loader, I., & Steinberg, J. (2016). The SAGE handbook of global policing. London, UK: SAGE.Find this resource:

      Den Boer, M., & Block, L. (2013). Liaison officers: Essential actors in transnational policing. The Hague, The Netherlands: Eleven International.Find this resource:

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