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INL Work in the Field of Law Enforcement

The international community faces a multitude of security challenges which threaten global security, economic growth, and community development. Weak law enforcement institutions struggle to combat criminal networks operating in their sovereign territory which heighten these challenges. INL assists countries to develop their own capacity to fight crime, administer justice, and safeguard the rule of law. 

INL law enforcement programs contribute to U.S. national and international security, benefit partner countries, and support stable, sound governance and democratic values by providing effective, professional assistance to host nation governments and law enforcement organizations. 

INL works with international counterparts to meet reform and development objectives of international law enforcement organizations at the national, regional, and local levels.  INL police and law enforcement advisors deploy globally in support of this mission, conducting a wide range of law enforcement development activities. 

INL law enforcement program activities include:

  • Assessing foreign law enforcement agencies’ effectiveness, strengths, and deficiencies; 
  • Designing foreign police and law enforcement organizational development programs to help meet identified needs; 
  • Strengthening systems of accountability including through independent oversight authorities and internal inspection or complaint units; 
  • Improving police-community relations; 
  • Promoting police forces more inclusive of women and members of underserved communities, including at leadership levels; 
  • Assessing and assisting with criminal forensics investigative capacities; 
  • Identifying required program resources and necessary equipment; 
  • Developing and delivering training and technical assistance, as needed; 
  • Mentoring foreign law enforcement officials on specific issues; 
  • Identifying implementing partners for INL law enforcement foreign assistance programs; 
  • Liaising with U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies as INL implementing partners; 
  • Hosting foreign law enforcement officials on U.S.-based study visits; and 
  • Monitoring and evaluating police programmatic results. 

Underwater crime scene investigation training program with the Philippines. (INL)
Underwater crime scene investigation training program with the Philippines. 

Border Security

Border security allows for the international movement of people, commerce, and finance for legitimate purposes.  INL works with partners to facilitate these lawful flows while countering illicit movements that threaten to undermine national security and public safety.  INL, working closely with Department of Homeland Security experts in the fields of disrupting cross-border crime and dismantling the networks that facilitate it, supports training, mentoring, equipping, and other capacity building efforts of partner countries to tackle these border issues.  These include detection equipment at ports of entry, providing biometric identification equipment, training in investigative techniques related to transnational crime, working with government and NGOs to rescue and protect victims of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, and supporting units made up of host country officers and prosecutors who are specially trained to dismantle, disrupt, and prosecute cross-border crime under their nation’s laws. 

Drug seizure in Guatemala.
Drug seizure in Guatemala.

Maritime Law Enforcement

Two of the tools that INL uses to counter crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad are the competent national authority and maritime law enforcement agreements.  Transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking networks threaten regional security and our own domestic national interests.  Left unchallenged, criminal networks undermine democratic institutions, impact global economic stability, and threaten public health.  In order to effectively meet obligations and the goals of international drug and unlawful acts treaties, competent national authorities empowered to issue certificates and authorizations for law enforcement activities are designated by state parties.  These competent national authorities are available 24/7 to respond to maritime threats and support global maritime law enforcement activities.  

The U.S.-designated competent national authority for the 1988 Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation resides in INL.  The individual serving in this capacity is responsible for coordinating the U.S. response to foreign requests for confirmation of vessel registries and authorization to stop, board, and search U.S. flagged vessels suspected of illicit narcotics trafficking.  Similarly, the U.S. competent national authority facilitates U.S. requests to foreign governments for confirmation of vessel registry and authorization to stop, board, and search foreign-flagged vessels.  Competent national authorities are essential in communicating requests and obtaining authority to conduct law enforcement activities not otherwise authorized under international law. 

Maritime Law Enforcement Agreements between the U.S. and foreign partners further advance maritime security objectives.  These agreements provide reciprocal authorizations between the United States and a foreign partner and establish binding procedures and expectations in the execution of law enforcement operations.  Maritime law enforcement agreements include provisions and procedures that include shipboarding, pursuit and entry, embarkation of shipriders, technical assistance activities, and more.  INL supports the U.S. competent authority in the development and negotiation of maritime law enforcement agreements that strengthen partnerships and improve effectiveness and efficiency that disrupts transnational criminal organizations’ use of the maritime environment for illicit purposes including human smuggling, narcotics trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and associated crimes.

State and Local Partnerships Program

INL has established relationships with U.S. municipal police departments, State police agencies, County Sheriff’s Offices, and other law enforcement organizations to leverage their expertise in support of the Department of State’s foreign policy objectives. U.S. active serving law enforcement officers serve on assignments of various durations abroad and within their own domestic jurisdictions to assess, mentor, advise, and/or train foreign counterparts. These partnerships are mutually beneficial; the Department of State benefits from the knowledge and expertise of active-serving police officers, while state and local partners expand their ties with countries of interest to their communities, develop new skill sets, collaborate with the Department of State, support foreign policy priorities, and represent the United States overseas. 

For more information, please see INL’s page on its SLP Program here 

International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA)

Crime knows no borders and the work of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Program is an essential part of enhancing U.S. and partner ability to effectively confront transnational criminal threats. INL sponsors, funds, and administers the ILEA Program, in partnership with host governments and seventeen federal law enforcement partners. The ILEAs advance anti-crime efforts by building the capacity of foreign criminal justice partners of the United States and connecting these partners with one another and U.S. law enforcement to address shared threats.  

For more information, please see INL’s page on ILEA here.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future