INTERPOL Washington: History, Role & Purpose

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  • 2:16 INTERPOL's Roles
  • 4:45 Tools of INTERPOL
  • 6:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley has a JD degree and is an attorney. She has taught and written various law courses.

INTERPOL is the International Criminal Police Organization. It links together law enforcement from all corners of the world and houses a bureau in Washington D.C. This lesson explains the roles and history of INTERPOL.


Ira Einhorn brutally murdered his girlfriend in Philadelphia, but skipped bail and fled to Europe before he could be prosecuted. This led to an international manhunt, with Einhorn finally being found in a small village living a new life under a new name. He was arrested by French police and convicted in the United States 25 years after the murder. How could police coordinate such a long and extensive manhunt? They used INTERPOL!

INTERPOL is the International Criminal Police Organization. INTERPOL is a national network of police agencies, founded in 1923. The idea behind INTERPOL was first discussed during a 1914 international police conference in Monaco. There were 24 countries present. Today, there are 190 different nations linked together through INTERPOL.

Each of those 190 nations houses a National Central Bureau, which serves as the nation's INTERPOL office and houses a police force. The bureaus are connected to one another through technology and other forms of communication, so that the police forces can work together. In the United States, our National Central Bureau is located in Washington D.C. and is known as INTERPOL Washington. INTERPOL Washington is supervised by the U.S. Department of Justice.

INTERPOL Washington works closely with the other 189 bureaus to solve international crimes. Sometimes crimes cross borders. An accused burglary suspect might flee from Canada to Mexico. An offender might ship stolen goods from Germany to the United States. Or an offender in Russia might be running an international credit fraud operation from his home computer. INTERPOL's purpose is to help countries work together to investigate international crimes and bring offenders to prosecution.


Let's take a closer look at INTERPOL'S various roles. INTERPOL is involved in three main areas:

  • Crisis response
  • Event security
  • Crime prevention

INTERPOL addresses crisis response in a couple of different ways. First, INTERPOL responds to major crimes. INTERPOL sends an Incident Response Team, which is a specialized police force sent to aid an INTERPOL country when that country faces a major crime or serious police issue, such as rioting. Incident Response Team members are known for their police expertise and experience.

Second, INTERPOL addresses crisis response by sending Incident Response Teams to INTERPOL countries when those countries experience large natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes. An Incident Response Team can also be sent for manmade disasters, such as bombings. In general, Incident Response Teams are used to support the existing police forces in INTERPOL countries when local forces are overwhelmed or overpowered.

Now let's look at how INTERPOL addresses event security. INTERPOL helps with major events by sending an INTERPOL Major Events Support Team, which is a specialized police force sent to aid an INTERPOL country when that country hosts a large, international event. These teams are used for events like the Olympics and the World Cup. The support team brings expertise and experience to the security planning for the event and also to the policing of the event.

Lastly, let's look at how INTERPOL addresses crime prevention. INTERPOL mostly addresses crime prevention through its vast network of police forces. Together, the INTERPOL bureaus use intelligence to investigate incidents and apprehend suspects. INTERPOL forces work together to find known criminals and bring them to justice. Together, INTERPOL forces also focus on many types of Internet-based crimes, such as closing down websites that sell illegal drugs or exploit children.

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