EU
New police cooperation plan includes surveillance, intelligence-gathering and remote vehicle stopping technology
23.01.2014


  • European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS) sets out six year plan to increase cooperation on technology research and procurement
  • Suggestion that Council sub-group may become a "single legal entity"
  • Group wants nearly €1 million in funding to support long-term work programme


European police forces have agreed a six year plan for cooperation on technology and for the next two years will focus on projects examining Automatic Number Plate Recognition, open source and signals intelligence, video surveillance and the remote stopping of vehicles.

The plans are contained in a work programme [1] drawn up by the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS), a sub-group of the Council's Law Enforcement Working Party. According to a presentation given by the Dutch official responsible for coordinating ENLETS, 26 Member States participate. [2]

The group was formed in 2008 and in 2012 declared that it had found a "mission" - to "support front line policing and the fight against serious and organised crime by gathering user requirements, scanning and raising awareness of new technology and best practices, benchmarking and giving advice".

Last year the role of ENLETS was given high-level political approval when the Justice and Home Affairs Council approved a set of Conclusions on "strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy". [3]

One of ENLETS' key objectives for the next two years is "executing the Council Conclusions on the European level", as well as completing a Commission-funded project entitled "ENLETS disseminates best practice" (EDBP).

The EDBP project will focus on:

  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR): ENLETS will "support those MS who feel the need to enhance their capabilities by sharing best practices";
  • Open Source Intelligence: "relates to front line policing (events, crowd control) and criminal investigations (search for evidence, monitoring and surveillance). In this project the handling of open sources will be assessed and ranked";
  • Signal Intelligence: "What kind of signal intelligence is the most operationally effective and open for integrating the sensors [used by law enforcement agencies] in the EU? What kind of concept will be needed as ever more data is forwarded for processing and more information needs to be analysed?";
  • Surveillance: "focus will be on sharing the best video systems… to match the best standards in video used by the industry to the end user requirements. Privacy enhanced technology and transparency are key issues"; and
  • Remote stopping vehicles: "This project will work on a technological standard that can be a 'build in standard' for all cars that enter the European market."

Previous plans foresaw the Dutch police, who have made extensive use of Dutch military drones for policing purposes, [4] leading a project on drone technology. This has disappeared from the current list of priorities, as has a French-led project on "protective vest/materials and non-lethal weapons". [5]

The EDBP project will involve the National Contact Points for ENLETS "mapping their environment" by "identify[ing] the real experts in the field, relevant departments and persons"; the exchange of information on technology by identifying "who is using what, when, how and what for"; establishing the needs of police forces and negotiating with suppliers to "make the new technology applicable for end users"; and exploring funding opportunities for the group, for example from the EU's Internal Security Fund and Horizon 2020 research fund.

"ENLETS will support the growth of EU security industry"

Beyond this, the work programme lays out medium-term (2014-17) and long-term (2014-20) objectives.

In the medium-term, the group will seek to build "a relationship with industry" to "ensure a swift adaptation of new, promising technologies in law enforcement. ENLETS will achieve this goal by meeting with the two largest industrial trade associations in Europe," as well as smaller businesses. "ENLETS will support the growth of EU security industry," says the work programme bluntly.

A transnational overview of developments in police technology will also be established, alongside giving support to other sub-groups of the Law Enforcement Working Party and setting up a "digital tool" for ENLETS participants, allowing swift access to information.

In the long-term, the group wants to see research "linked to law enforcement users' needs, to national or European priorities or to assessments such as the EU SOCTA [Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment]." ENLETS will also facilitate contact between "key players from both law enforcement and research institutes" and "scan the horizon for emerging technology in order to identify potential threats and opportunities".

Cash injection

ENLETS was in 2012 awarded a €587,000 grant from the European Commission to carry out the EDBP project, with the overall aim of "disseminating a base line in technology" so that "Member States will be able to harmonise the technology to a more standard European approach" and "enable a more cost and time efficient procurement and steer the industrial market towards end user requirements". A further contribution of nearly €53,000 has been made by the UK and the Netherlands, giving the group a total income of just over €620,000.

Currently a Dutch police official, Patrick Padding, [6] is responsible for leading the work of the ENLETS Core Group, which was formed in 2012 to play a coordination role. In the past Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK have been cited as members of the Core Group. [7]

The work programme calls for "a change in funded resources" so that "a professionally organised network" can be created. This, says the document, will require €915,000 to pay for, amongst other things, "eight full time members to manage activities which vary from project management and proactive involvement in policy".

One idea that the work programme says is currently being explored is "the possibility of creating ENLETS as a single legal entity" to boost the group's "eligibility and sustainability and make it more efficient to receive funding".

It is unclear what exactly this may entail, but it is worth noting that in the UK both the Association of Chief Police Officers of England & Wales (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland (ACPOS) are private limited companies. This has led to fierce criticism, for example from Julian Smith, a Conservative MP:

"Though the operational independence of the police from politicians is vitally important, it is also important that there be accountability and full transparency. That is something that, because of the private company status, is not currently there."

This state of affairs continues despite the fact that:

"The organisation is primarily funded by the taxpayer - it receives hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Home Office and hundreds of thousands of pounds from the budgets of Police Authorities around the country. Millions more come via special projects that it undertakes on national policing issues." [8]

Whatever ENLETS' proposals for increasing its income and becoming a "single legal entity" involve, they are yet to convince Member States' representatives. The Council's Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) endorsed the work programme on 17 December, but noted that "there would be no obligation to participate and finance the network. This issue of legal personality should also be clarified further." [9]

A networking network

As well as seeking to coordinate EU Member States' requirements and acquisition of police technology, ENLETS appears to have close links to EU agencies, Commission officials and other subgroups of the Law Enforcement Working Party.

A summary of the EDBP project notes that the results of ENLETS' work on establishing national police forces' technological needs will be "harmonised with Europol and Frontex" and a diagram in a presentation on ENLETS given in February 2013 demonstrates the intended structure of the group. In this, the ENLETS Core Group is connected to Europol and Frontex, the Commission's Directorate-General for Home Affairs (DG HOME, responsible for security policy), and DG ENTR (Enterprise and Industry), responsible for industrial policy. [10]

ENLETS has also established links with e-MOBIDIG (European Mobile Identification Interoperability Group), another subgroup of the Council's Law Enforcement Working Party which deals with mobile identification equipment (for example fingerprint scanners) for law enforcement authorities.

Notes from a presentation given in May by the joints heads of e-MOBIDIG (Frank Smith of the UK Home Office and Cyril Murie of the French Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés) state that both groups agreed it was important that they "cooperate and work effectively, avoiding duplication." The minutes also indicate that e-MOBIDIG is developing its own long-term "vision". [11]

It seems that ENLETS will also be consulted in relation to the development of common European standards in the field of security for technical interoperability, syntax, semantics, organisation and performance. A Commission document from 2011 - before ENLETS had even found its "mission" - states that work for developing and setting these standards "should be undertaken in close cooperation with the widest possible range of interested groups," including ENLETS. [12]

Looking to the future

The ENLETS work programme is yet to be discussed by the Law Enforcement Working Party, but with endorsement from COSI and approval of the group from the Justice and Home Affairs Council, there is clear backing for the goals of increasing police cooperation on technology research and procurement. Whether approval will be forthcoming for the more political goal of forming a single legal entity remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the group's ambitious financial aims - for a budget of nearly €1 million - may be fulfilled by the generous European funding on offer from Horizon 2020 [13] and the Internal Security Fund for police cooperation. [14]


Further reading


Footnotes
[1] ENLETS, 'Work Programme 2014-2020', 10 November 2013,
[2] Patrick Padding, 'Enlets PCP Briefing', 15 November 2013
[3] Council Conclusions on strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy, 12103/13, 10 July 2013
[4] Rejo Zenger, 'Politie vliegt bijna elke derde dag met Defensie drone', 6 March 2013
[5] 'Europe's justice and interior ministers push for closer relations between internal security authorities and industry', Statewatch News Online, July 2013
[6] Patrick Padding, LinkedIn
[7] Frank Smith & Cyril Murie, 'LEWP Update: e-MOBIDIG working group', 22 May 2013. Amongst other things, Smith is also a member of the management board of the EU Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems.
[8] 'Julian Smith MP raises concern over ACPO', Westminster Briefing, undated
[9] Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) Mixed Committee (UE-Iceland.Liechtenstein/Norway/Switzerland), 'Summary of discussions', 5058/14, 14 January 2014
[10] ENLETS, 'Dublin briefing', 19-20 February 2013
[11] Frank Smith & Cyril Murie, 'LEWP Update: e-MOBIDIG working group', 22 May 2013
[12] European Commission, 'Programming mandate addressed to CEN, CENELEC and ETSI to establish security standards', M/487 EN, 17 February 2011
[13] 'New €77 billion research fund launches; €3.4 billion for security research', Statewatch News Online, 13 December 2013
[14] European Parliament Legislative Observatory, 'Internal Security Fund: instrument for financial support for police cooperation, preventing and combating crime, and crisis management 2014-2020', 2011/0368(COD)


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