Launch of the Customs - Police Cooperation Handbook

17 April 2018

The Customs - Police Cooperation Handbook, jointly drafted by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and INTERPOL, was developed to further the goal of enhancing cooperation and collaboration between these two agencies. This guidance material aims to describe the complementary roles of each institution and identify the opportunities for collaboration. The Handbook also provides an overview of the typologies of cooperation models that exist and presents the key elements and initiatives that can be implemented to foster better coordination and enhanced cooperation. Finally, the guide contains an assessment tool that seeks to evaluate the state-of-play of relations between Customs and Police at national level.

The Customs – Police Cooperation Handbook was launched on 23 March 2018 during the 37th Session of the WCO Enforcement Committee (EC) which took place in Brussels from 19 to 23 March 2018 under the theme “Customs enforcement: securing trade and travel”. This year’s theme for the Committee reflected the increasingly important role played by the international Customs community in addressing cross-border security challenges while safeguarding the interests of legitimate traders and travellers. Counting more than 150 Customs delegates, the Committee also saw the participation of other members of the enforcement community who joined the discussions, including representatives from the CITES Secretariat, Europol, Frontex, the International Criminal Court, INTERPOL, the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Many participants expressed strong support for the joint work of the WCO and INTERPOL in developing the Handbook and emphasized the importance of, efficient coordination in Customs and Police activities to avoid overlaps and waste of resources and close cooperation, especially in regard to information exchange.

The Handbook was also presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus (NCB), an event that brought together the Heads of Bureaus to discuss policing challenges, share information, exchange ideas and best practices and be updated on latest activities and new resources of the Organization. As with the Enforcement Committee, the NCB meeting fully endorsed and supported the efforts to bring the Customs and Police community together in addressing those mutual priorities that impact cross border criminal activity.

Customs and Police Cooperation has been addressed a number of times but was more recently addressed in  the framework of discussions on Coordinated Border Management at the 74th Session of the Policy Commission in Punta Cana in December 2015. Delegates attending the meeting recognized the need for stronger cooperation between both institutions, as an enabler for effective law enforcement outcomes and as a precondition for better Coordinated Border Management. While collaboration between Customs and Police at the international level was deemed successful, as reflected in the 1998 MOU signed between the WCO and INTERPOL , and the number of Operations conducted jointly, the same could not be said about cooperation at country level. As a consequence, The Policy Commission tasked the Secretariat with the development of a practical guidance manual on how to establish Customs – Police cooperation at national level. INTERPOL joined these efforts as co-author of the Handbook in 2016, ensuring that the Handbook would encompass the viewpoint of Police.

The Customs – Police cooperation Handbook is addressed to both Police and Customs officers at all levels of hierarchy. While it does not offer a “one-size fits all” solution, it recognizes that countries have varying levels of cooperation in line with their national legislative and constitutional framework. As such, it provides recommendations on how to strengthen relations between Customs and Police, depending on the current state-of-play. The Handbook is to be seen as a living document that will evolve and be enriched over time to cater for changes and innovations in the enforcement environment.

The Handbook is available to WCO Members via this link.