AskDefine | Define interpol

Dictionary Definition

Interpol n : an international intelligence agency permitting collaboration among intelligence agencies around the world

Extensive Definition

distinguish International Police The International Criminal Police Organization, better known by its telegraphic address Interpol, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation. It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission in 1923 and adopted its telegraphic address as its name in 1956. It should not be confused with the International Police, which takes on an active uniformed role in policing war-torn countries.
Interpol is the world's fifth-largest international organization in terms of the number of member countries, after the Universal Postal Union, FIBA (the International Basketball Federation), the United Nations, and FIFA (Association football's international governing body). Its membership of 186 countries provides finance of around US$59 million through annual contributions. (By comparison, Europol receives $90 million annually.) The organization's headquarters are in Lyon, France. Its current Secretary-General is Ronald Noble, formerly of the United States Treasury. Noble is the first non-European to hold the position of Secretary-General. Jackie Selebi, National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, was president from 2004 but resigned on January 13, later being charged in South Africa on three counts of corruption and one of defeating the course of justice. He was replaced by Arturo Herrera Verdugo, current National Commissioner of Policía de Investigaciones de Chile and former Vicepresident for the American Zone, who will remain acting president until the next organization meeting, in October 2008.
In order to maintain as politically neutral a role as possible, Interpol's constitution forbids its involvement in crimes that do not overlap several member countries, or in any political, military, religious, or racial crimes. Its work focuses primarily on public safety, terrorism, organized crime, war crimes, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, child pornography, white-collar crime, computer crime, intellectual property crime and corruption.
In 2005, the Interpol General Secretariat employed a staff of 502, representing 78 member countries. Women comprised 42 percent of the staff. The Interpol public website received an average of 2.2 million page visits every month. Interpol's red notices that year led to the arrests of 3,500 people.


Interpol was founded in Austria in 1923 as the International Criminal Police (ICP). Following the Anschluss (Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany) in 1938, the organization fell under the control of Nazi Germany and the Commission's headquarters were eventually moved to Berlin in 1942. It is unclear, however, if and to what extent the ICPC files were used to further the goals of the Nazi regime.
After the end of World War II in 1945, the organization was revived, as the International Criminal Police Organization, by European Allies of World War II officials from Belgium, France, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Its new headquarters were established in Saint-Cloud, a town on the outskirts of Paris. They remained there until 1989, when they were moved to their present location, Lyon.


Each member country maintains a National Central Bureau (NCB) staffed by national law enforcement officers. The NCB is the designated contact point for the Interpol General Secretariat, regional bureaus and other member countries requiring assistance with overseas investigations and the location and apprehension of fugitives. This is especially important in countries which have many law-enforcement agencies: this central bureau is a unique point of contact for foreign entities, which may not understand the complexity of the law-enforcement system of the country they attempt to contact. For instance, the NCB for the United States of America is housed at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The NCB will then ensure the proper transmission of information to the correct agency.
Interpol maintains a large database charting unsolved crimes and both convicted and alleged criminals. At any time, a member nation has access to specific sections of the database and its police forces are encouraged to check information held by Interpol whenever a major crime is committed. The rationale behind this is that drug traffickers and similar criminals have international ties, and so it is likely that crimes will extend beyond political boundaries.
In 2002, Interpol began maintaining a database of lost and stolen identification and travel documents, allowing member countries to be alerted to the true nature of such documents when presented. Passport fraud, for example, is often performed by altering a stolen passport; in response, several member countries have worked to make online queries into the stolen document database part of their standard operating procedure in border control departments. As of early 2006, the database contained over ten million identification items reported lost or stolen, and is expected to grow more as more countries join the list of those reporting into the database.
A member nation's police force can contact one or more member nations by sending a message relayed through Interpol offices.

Member states and sub-bureaus

Sub-bureaus shown in italics.

Non-member countries

Secretaries-general and presidents

Secretaries-general since organization's inception in 1923: Presidents since organization's inception in 1923:

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

AL, ANZUS Council, ASPAC, Arab League, BIS, British Commonwealth, CACM, CENTO, Central Treaty Organization, Cheka, Colombo Plan, Common Market, Commonwealth of Nations, Council of Europe, ECSC, EEC, EFTA, Euratom, European Economic Community, FBI, French Community, Gestapo, ICRC, LAFTA, MP, MVD, Mounties, NATO, NKVD, Nordic Council, OAS, OAU, OCAM, OECD, OGPU, OPEC, RCMP, SEATO, SP, Scotland Yard, WCC, Warsaw Pact, constabulary, county police, highway patrol, law enforcement agency, military police, police, police force, political police, posse, provincial police, riot police, secret police, security force, shore patrol, special police, state police, tactical police, troopers, vigilance committee, vigilantes
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