Interpol and International Police Cooperation Not 100 in 2014

Mathieu Deflem

This is a comment on Interpol's 83rd General Assembly in Monaco in November 2014, which took place under the theme of "Turn Back Crime: 100 Years of International Police Cooperation." A more detailed analysis of the history of Interpol and the misrepresentations thereof in later writings is in order, but this note can be helpful.

From November 3 to 7, 2014, Interpol holds its 83rd General Assembly in Monaco on the theme of "Turn Back Crime: 100 Years of International Police Cooperation." Coinciding with the meeting, the organization also celebrates what its leadership calls the “centenary” of “100 Years of International Police Cooperation”. This slogan recalls that an international meeting was held in Monaco in 1914.

Sadly, the historical truth is different and does not warrant this claim of a one-century old Interpol, an organization that was founded in 1923. It also does not make historical sense to refer to the "idea" of international police cooperation as being one century old this year, because relevant developments to foster international police cooperation began to take shape from at least the latter half of the 19th century onwards.
To be sure, it is entirely appropriate for Interpol to have selected Monaco as the meeting place for its 2014 General Assembly, as the Monaco Congress of 1914 did indeed represent a moment in the ongoing development of international cooperation. However, it is not only unbecoming, but plainly mistaken to present the 1914 congress as anything other than a political effort that was then taken by Prince Albert I. Ironically, the 1914 meeting referred to criminal police explicitly in its name (“First Congress of International Criminal Police”), but the meeting organizers did not rely on police conceptions of international cooperation. In fact, police officials were by and large not invited to the congress and did mostly not attend the meeting. This is a matter of historical fact that has been well documented (Deflem 2000, 2002).

It is therefore not only historically mistaken for the current leadership of Interpol to misrepresent a critical chapter in the organization’s history. It is also baffling that the organization is denying the important contributions that its original founders made some 91 years ago in Vienna. The erroneous labeling of the Monaco Congress of 1914 as the original site of the idea of international police cooperation and the invalid designation “100 Years of International Police Cooperation” for Interpol in 2014 is a denial of the proud and necessary ideals Interpol itself has from the start been committed to. It is an embarrassment that these facts are misrepresented by the current leadership of Interpol.


See my related publications on the history of Interpol and international police cooperation