Future of policing main focus as police chiefs meet at Europol

Top law enforcement officials from Europe and key partner countries convened at Europol’s headquarters last week to discuss the new realities of the policing landscape at Europol’s annual European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC). 

Co-hosted by Europol and the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU, the two-day conference (26-27 September) brought together 385 high-level representatives from 44 countries to discuss how our rapidly-evolving world is creating new threats, opportunities and challenges for law enforcement.  

The European Police Chiefs Convention, now in its 13th edition, is the leading platform for international police cooperation, allowing senior police officials from across the world to meet each other and discuss key matters of operational relevance in bilateral meetings and plenary sessions. 

As in previous years, a meeting of the Directors General of Customs Authorities took place in the framework of the EPCC to strengthen the cooperation between law enforcement and custom authorities. 

The changing operational context of policing

Opening the EPCC, Europol’s Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said:

There are big challenges for law enforcement ahead. We are facing today a world of multiple crises in the midst of which organised crime systemically reinvents itself. The criminal landscape is becoming more sophisticated, more transnational and more complex for investigators. We’re on the brink of what we could call a global crime warming.

Alongside the geopolitical volatility of the recent years, the digital acceleration of our society is shifting the very ground below law enforcement, producing new operational realities. Executive Director De Bolle added:

For law enforcement agencies, coping with this continuous and swift digital transformation will require a quantum leap if we are to provide for effective future policing. We will have to prioritise and re-assess where law enforcement can deliver, where to outsource and where private sector solutions may be preferable.

Considerations for future preparedness 

In preparation for the plenary discussions at the EPCC, four online workshops were organised with all the European Chiefs of Police in the weeks leading up to the event, bringing together diverse national perspectives and expertise to shape a collective response. 

The discussions focused on the following pressing issues:

  • Crime in the Digital Age: the evolution of illegal markets on the dark web and law enforcement’s ability to deal with online criminal trade;
  • Policing in Partnership: the Digital Services Act, data retention and access to data and public private partnerships in prevention, investigation and takedowns;
  • Illegal migration challenges for the Schengen area: Existing tools and gaps at the different stages to prevent and investigate criminal facilitation, criminal connection to secondary movements in the EU and EU Policy framework for security and migration;
  • Destabilising our Society – the Organised Crime Factor: Key elements to disrupt high-risk criminal networks, national instruments to detect and target groups and networks and avenues for a coordinated response. 

The outcomes of these four workshops were presented during the EPCC, with Europol and the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU concluding that: 

  1. Police chiefs expressed profound concern about the threats posed by organised crime. Citizens and victims of the increasingly violent methods that criminals apply must be protected.
  2. The international nature of organised crime requires an even stronger European and global cooperation to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement responses. 
  3. It is imperative to pursue partnerships with countries and regions that have a connection to crime that impacts the EU to enhance the efficacy of prevention, investigation, and disruption of crimes.
  4. Traditional law enforcement approaches must be combined, in partnership with non-law enforcement partners. The numerous advantages of enhancing collaboration with private sector partners are encouraged in the interest of enhancing efficiency.

Celebrating innovation within law enforcement

As with recent editions of the EPCC, Europol chose to recognise the most innovative projects within law enforcement with its 2023 Europol Excellence Awards in Innovation.

On the margins of the EPCC, Europol announced the winners of this year’s awards.

The Dutch Police (Politie), the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Estonian Police (Eesti Politsei) were recognised for their achievements in three categories: the most innovative initiative in ethics, diversity and inclusion; the most innovative operation and the most innovative technical tool.

Read more about the 2023 Europol Excellence Awards in Innovation here.