Changes in operating environment of internal security – enhanced international and operative Police collaboration 

Tony Everhall Julkaisupäivä 31.10.2022 14.50 Blogit

As a result of comprehensive trends in the security environment, law enforcement authorities have had to react to increasingly multiform threat scenarios over the past few years. New manifestations in this respect include terrorism, hybrid and cyber threats, in particular. 

Faced with new statutory tasks, the Police capacity to perform efficiently calls for more demanding competence and intensified cooperation between international partner authorities. This development work must continue. 

The core function of the Police is to safeguard the legal system and social order. The Police responsibilities to maintain preparedness is based on a national and international overview of the situation. To be prepared to respond to increasingly serious threats brought about by the international developments the Police needs to cooperate with other states and international organisations, such as Europol, Interpol and the US, as well as to develop the operative cross-border operations. In turn, this requires that the Police-related legislation, administrative processes and operative capacity are continuously updated. In order for the Police to cover its new statutory tasks, all necessary resources must be allocated. 

The significance of the international cooperation is increasingly important for many aspects of policing. International cooperation may directly impact internal security through the collecting, exchanging and analysing of information and, if necessary, providing and accepting assistance and help. The means of international cooperation aim at safeguarding the materialisation of the rule of law, stability and human rights in line with the constitutional conditions expressed directly by the Constitution. The ability of the law enforcement authorities to act in a mutually dependent international operative environment is here key.

The global organised crime affecting the EU Member States is growing, as suggested by the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) made by Europol in 2021. 

The international character of the criminal organisations is demonstrated by the fact that persons of different nationalities account for 65% of the organisations. The organisations comprise a total of 180 different nationalities. Seven criminal organisations out of ten operate in more than three countries. 

Fig. 1. International character of criminal organisations
Source: Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) made by Europol, 2021 

Police to have new statutory tasks and obligations related to international operations

Recently given to Parliament, the Government bill (HE 183/2022) proposes an extension of the purview of legislation and an introduction of new Police statutory tasks. The proposed regulation would make it possible for Finnish authorities to operate independently, or in support of another Finnish authority, to act without an external request outside the Finnish territory. Such circumstances could include, for example, evacuation or hostage situations. As concern the international operations of the Police, the proposal has significant weight in principle since the actions contemplated would not be based on EU regulations that would directly be binding to Finland, or on bilateral or trilateral conventions, for example, among Nordic countries. 

To be successfully performed, the proposed new and particularly demanding tasks and functions would call for sufficient resources to be allocated to the Police. Currently, the Police already has trained personnel to operate in certain international assistance situations, based on the international obligations now in force. However, the scope and demands of the current tasks do not match the other forms of international assistance as proposed in the Government bill. The Police might be facing an operation or task in a location where the social order has collapsed and the operating environment is not that of the EU area. Since the Police should have the preparedness to take on these tasks urgently, potentially even outside the EU area, it would be important to also consider the aspects of securing the national performance capacity and equipping. 

The national and international operative readiness of the Police Special Intervention Unit Karhu should be developed to meet the situations faced along with the new proposed tasks. According to a preliminary assessment, it would be necessary to increase the number of the Police staff with special competence required for the hostage and evacuation tasks. The financial impacts related to Police operations should be defined more precisely in the legislative projects where completely new statutory tasks and responsibilities are proposed on top of those already covered by the Police.

The Police statutory tasks have increased over the past decade, and the demands of the operations have grown accordingly. However, the staff resources allocated to the Police have remained virtually unchanged despite the new developments. The Police staff resources have diminished. From the number of 11 000 staff members in 2010, we were down to under ten thousand in 2017. The situation has slightly improved by the year 2022 but still not to the levels of the 2010s. 

This disproportion is extremely challenging from the Police operations point of view, despite intensified cooperation between the authorities and more efficient use of information systems.

The resourcing of the Police – as any other public actors – is based on the state budgets in line with the respective proposals. It is noteworthy that the GDP share of funds allocated to the Finnish Police is relatively small by international standards. In Finland, the Police accounts for a GDP share that is the third smallest in Europe, about 0.5 percent of the GDP in 2019.  

Value added of the operative collaboration of special operations units is intensified national preparedness and response 

A Special Intervention Unit is a law enforcement unit in the EU Member State, specialised in managing crisis situations. The term can refer to a national Special Intervention Unit or another Police unit with the necessary competence required for a demanding policing situation. Based on the current regulation (Chapter 9 of the Police Act), the Police can participate in a cooperation in line with the so-called Atlas decision (2008/617/JHA). The decision on providing and receiving assistance by a Special Intervention Unit can be taken in case of situations such as hostage taking, hijacking and similar events.  The assistance may consist of providing the requesting Member State with equipment and/or expertise and/or of carrying out actions on the territory of that Member State. 

Nordic countries have a shared view

The Nordic Special Intervention Units and legal experts met in September. The objective of the meeting was to recognise the need for future operative Nordic collaboration, to assess the national regulatory status in each country as well as the fluent operations of respective decision-making process and provision and requests of assistance. According to a shared conclusion, the Nordic operative collaboration should have a clear framework and operative readiness in all sub-areas, taking  the current international developments into consideration. 

The Nordic countries make an effort to develop increasingly seamless collaborative forms so that the countries can request or provide assistance in urgent crises. In particular, the collaboration aims at responding to terrorism threats and situations causing serious and immediate physical threat to the people, property, infrastructure or institution in the country in question.

The absolute value added of the operative cross-border cooperation is that such cooperation can further improve national preparedness and intensify the operative response. The operative collaboration between states should be supported by clear and facilitating legislation, fluent decision-making and secured resourcing. International operative collaboration methods and preparedness should be developed more comprehensively.

In conclusion

The development and developing of internal security has been an object of several publications over the past few years. Almost without exception, the approach has been that of international cooperation and ensuing dependencies. For example, the Government report on internal security discussed the topic from the angle of the Finnish society and how it is expected to change as a part of Europe and the international community. The perspective of the report extends to the year 2030. Correspondingly, the Government decision-in-principle of internal security strategy states that “the internal security is continuously and increasingly impacted by phenomena and decisions made outside the Finnish borders. In certain areas of internal security, the development is fully dependent of the international situation.”

It is fair to say that the interdependency of the EU Member States and the Nordic countries in security issues has grown. In view of this development, the importance of international cross-border cooperation will be even more marked in the future. The significance of international Police cooperation is critical. It calls for the development of more efficient and comprehensive collaborative processes and legislation. 

Over the past few years, the field of duties by the Police has become more complex and extensive while the competence requirements have grown simultaneously. The resourcing of the new statutory tasks of the Police and the ensuing obligations should be assessed more precisely in the future legislative processes.

Tony Everhall
Chief Superintendent, International Law Affairs
National Police Board

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