The European Police Chiefs Convention: "allowing law enforcement leaders to influence wider policy and legislative developments"

Earlier this month the annual European Police Chiefs Convention was held in The Hague, with over 200 police chiefs and law enforcement officials from Europe and beyond meeting to discuss police leadership; witness protection and informant handling; data protection; and modern technology.

A Europol report on the Convention shows that police chiefs are hoping to weaken proposed new EU data protection regulations; develop closer links between police forces, technology firms and research institutes; increase international police collaboration; and will in the future consider setting up an EU fund for the payment of informers.

Data protection proposals: lacking the right "balance"

Proposals put forward by the European Commission in January last year for a new EU data protection Directive covering the field of policing and criminal justice are the subject of ongoing debate in the Council and the Parliament, [1] and are clearly high on the agenda of many police officials.

A working group (made up of representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Interpol, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Sweden and the UK) was convened prior to the Convention to discuss the proposals, and produced a lengthy list of recommendations and concerns. Most notable amongst these is the claim that the Draft Directive "lacks the necessary balance between data protection and law enforcement requirements".

The working group raised a wide number of other issues, arguing that the draft Directive, amongst other things:

  • Will cause a significant amount of bureaucracy for Member States' authorities;
  • Would require some Member States to change their "national penal and penal procedural law which conflicts with Member States' legislative competences in this area";
  • "Imposes severe and unnecessary limitations on international police information exchange" which would inhibit crime-fighting and "limits Member States' sovereignty to manage their external relations";
  • Should be negotiated with "the close involvement of EU law enforcement experts".

EU to pay police informers?

Another working group looking at witness protection and informant handling suggested setting up two EU-level funds: one to administer payments to police informants, and one to deal with payments for witness protection and relocation programs.

A working group on "witness protection and informant handling" led by Lithuania (which holds the current EU presidency) [2] wanted the conference to endorse a formal recommendation for the Commission and the Council to:

"[E]xplore the possibility of establishing a dedicated fund (administered by Europol), to support the payment of informants at European level. Although all crime areas should in principle be eligible for support, priority should be given to information supporting actions focusing on EU-wide crime, serious cases involving substantial assets, or EMPACT projects [European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats, the current EU model for coordinating joint police operations]."

A similar suggestion was made with regard to witness relocation. However, the Belgian and Greek police chiefs intervened, arguing that these are "sensitive" matters and that they should be "discussed further at a later stage".

A number of other recommendations on the issues were approved by the Convention, including:

  • All EU Member States to adhere to the Salzburg Forum Treaty in order to work towards standardised and harmonised cooperation on witness protection matters in the EU;
  • Member States, with Europol support, need to elaborate detailed conditions and a scoring matrix for the unbiased payment of rewards to informants, potentially in the framework of the Europol working group on informant handling;
  • Member States, with Europol and CEPOL (the European Police College) support, should develop common training modules for the staff of witness protection units, with a particular focus on the Internet, social media and biometric data in the context of witness protection;
  • Member States should adhere to the basic principles outlined in the Common Criteria and Basic Principles on Informant Handling, the International Rewards Request Protocol and Europol's Guidelines on Financial Support against Euro Counterfeiting;
  • Member States should provide the European codes of their high-risk informants to Europol for insertion into the High Risk Informant Database and all Member States should provide the updated contact details for their single point of contact(s) on informant handling at national level.

Modern technology

A working group on modern technology was led by Germany and included officials from Austria, Belgium, the Council of the EU, Europol (as moderator), Finland, France, Interpol, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

The group recommended that "a technology foresight management group should be established to provide strategic advice for heads of authorities", because "if law enforcement authorities are to be one step ahead, technology-oriented foresight must be made strategically relevant."

The Convention recommended that "police chiefs should ensure that an executive is responsible for technology foresight on a national level and for the endorsement of the Council Conclusions on ENLETS [the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services]," which were agreed by the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council in July this year.

This gives a further boost to the proposals made in the Council's Conclusions, which called for a 'Core Group' of ENLETS members to become "the EU technology watch function for internal security research and industrial policy". [3] The group has previously drawn up plans for coordinated research and pilot projects on drones, surveillance equipment, devices to remotely stop vehicles, and non-lethal weapons.

A further recommendation was that:

"Foresight methods like scenario-building should be used to prepare law enforcement agencies for future developments in the main crime fields, like organised crime, cybercrime or terrorism."

According to Europol's report on the Convention, support for the recommendations on technology came from the Danish, French and Spanish police chiefs.

Police leadership

The working group on police leadership was moderated by Europol with participating experts from Austria, Hungary, Interpol, the Netherlands and Spain, and seems to have focused much of its work on moving towards internationally-agreed guidelines:

"In essence it can be seen that police leadership comes down to skills, attributes and competencies that can be structured in accordance with the distinctive areas of the competency model presented by the working group (core values of future focus, authenticity, collaboration and performance). This leadership competency model is generic enough to allow for implementation that respects the 'couleur locale'."

The director of the European Police College (CEPOL), Ferenc Banfi, encouraged those present to put "more emphasis" on participation in "already-existing European police exchange programmes," and noted "how useful a tool the TOPSPOC course is, which should be further developed to have more visibility and impact at national level."

TOPSPOC stands for Top Senior Police Officers: The Stockholm Programme Realisation and covers "different aspects of international police cooperation, linked to the Stockholm Programme, and the Internal Security Strategy." [4]

The working group recommended:

  • The setting up of a joint coordination that supports and strengthens the implementation of a leadership development at domestic level, with the explicit commitment of the police chiefs to take personal ownership of implementing leadership development and succession planning.

Influencing "the wider policy agenda"

Europol's report on the Convention closes with a statement that indicates the upper levels of the police hierarchy are confident in the ability to exert an increasing amount of influence over EU law- and policy-making:

"In recent years there has not been enough work done to ensure that the law enforcement community has a strong enough voice - the EPCC aims to provide that opportunity, allowing law enforcement leaders to influence wider policy and legislative developments…

"The EPCC has become an effective platform for giving the law enforcement community of Europe the opportunity to influence the wider policy agenda."


[1] European Commission, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and the free movement of such data, COM(2012) 10/3, undated; European Parliament Legislative Observatory, Personal data protection: processing of data for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or execution of criminal penalties, and the free movement of data
[2] The working group was made up of "participating experts" from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Europol (as moderator), France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Sweden and the UK
[3] Europe's justice and interior ministers push for closer relations between internal security authorities and industry, Statewatch News Online, 17 July 2013
[4] CEPOL, 58/2013 TOPSPOC - Top Senior Police Officers: The Stockholm Programme Realisation (3)
earch our database for more articles and information or subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates from Statewatch News Online. We welcome contributions to News Online and comments on this website. E-mail us, call +44 (0) 208 802 1882, or send post to PO Box 1516, London, N16 0EW.

Home page | Statewatch News Online
In the News & News Digest | What's New | Statewatch Journal

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.