Europol: Policing the European Union

Facilitating Law Enforcement Cooperation Around the EU

The buildings of Europol at The Hague.
JurgenNL/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 2.0

Similar to the much larger and older INTERPOL organization, the European Union has established a law enforcement agency to assist member nations in investigating and preventing crimes and capturing fugitive criminals. The organization, known as Europol, facilitates cooperation among police agencies across the European continent.

History of Europol

As the nations in Europe moved closer toward establishing stronger political and economic ties through the evolving development of the European Union, the need for better cooperation among continental police departments became apparent.

The Europol Drug Unit was established in 1994 for the purpose of assisting national police forces with criminal investigations.

The responsibilities of the organization gradually grew to include other mobile and international crimes such as trafficking, motor vehicle crime, terrorism, and other organized crime.

Similar to INTERPOL, Europol was initially funded by member nations. In 2011, Europol became a full-fledged EU agency with an official EU budget.

Purpose of Eurpol

Europol has established itself as a leader in crime investigation and collaboration. It serves as a clearinghouse for the exchange of criminal information across Europe and provides resources to EU  nations to assist in criminal detection, prosecution, and prevention. The organization has worked toward providing standards for forensic science disciplines.

According to Europol, the stated goals of the agency are:

  • To be the primary support center for law enforcement activities within the European Union.
  • To be the crime information clearinghouse for the union.
  • To be recognized as a leader in law enforcement expertise for the union.

The organization has also made moves toward providing standards for forensic science disciplines, and work with FIFA, the international soccer body, to aid in football security and corruption investigations.

Their primary responsibilities, as stated in the agency's mandate, are to aid in the investigation and prosecution of:

  • Illicit Drugs
  • Human Trafficking and Illegal Immigration
  • Cyber Crime
  • Intellectual Property
  • Cigarette Smuggling
  • Counterfeiting
  • Value Added Tax Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Organized Crime
  • Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
  • Terrorism

Working for Europol

Europol employs digital forensic investigators, forensic scientists, crime analysts and other experts to bolster their mission of European law enforcement coordination.

Much like INTERPOL, Europol officers and agents do not have arrest powers under the authority of the EU. Instead, they are seconded to Europol from their home countries' national police agency. To work for Europol, investigators get their start in their own nation, working for national-level law enforcement bodies. They are appointed to serve as liaisons to partner with other participating agencies.