Defence & Security

To serve and protect – keeping the basic promise in today’s law enforcement landscape

22 Jul 2019, by Amy Sarcevic

The nature of law enforcement is changing against a backdrop of globalisation and advanced technological enablement.

Vulnerable communities are no longer restricted to postcodes, with the emergence of darknet markets and digital currencies broadening victim and criminal profiles; and blurring national and jurisdictional boundaries.

As technology advances, crime rates also appear to be keeping pace. The increasing popularity of cryptocurrency has seen a commensurate rise in crimes such as tax evasion, extortion, money laundering and contraband transactions. And the prevalence of internet usage generally has created a hotbed for high-ticket criminal activity, with the global cost of cybercrime damage predicted to reach $6 trillion by 2021 – a 100 percent increase from 2015.

Meanwhile, gaps in legislation are creating controversies and pitfalls, when it comes to fighting new-age crimes across international borders, including digitally-enabled violent extremism, corruption and fraud.

How are law enforcement agencies managing this change?

Ahead of the National Policing Summit we spoke with Leanne Close, Deputy Commissioner and National Security Executive at the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to get some insights.

What are the main challenges you face today and how do they compare with challenges you faced earlier in your career?

The environment has completely changed in the thirty plus years I have worked in law enforcement. In short, we are tackling new, more complex, forms of crime enabled by more sophisticated forms of technology, coupled with the ease of movements of people and information across the globe.

Today’s challenges largely pertain to the globalised, digital world we live in and the limitations that come with fighting borderless crimes. Everyone now has access to the internet at their fingertips, and the internet is a breeding ground for high-ticket criminal activity.

At present, disruption and prevention activities, particularly darknet markets and child sex offences, are a key focus of ours. Darknet markets are constantly evolving and we cannot afford to take our eyes off the ball for more than a second. Crimes against children are unfortunately becoming easier, as criminals can now utilise remote use technologies and digital currency to pay others to commit offences.

To complicate matters further, we are working with an outdated set of laws that never contemplated these sorts of challenges. Legislation at the moment is struggling to keep up with the rate of change. With digital communications so prevalent in society, we require search powers at their highest level in order to present matters to the criminal court of law.

Limitations with international legislation also present a challenge. We are currently working with police and law enforcement colleagues around the world to foster partnerships to interdict the supply of illicit drugs in Australia – a very high demand location for narcotics.

How do you deal with these challenges?

When it comes to tackling global crime across international borders, we are constantly looking to form new partnerships.

As an example, the New South Wales Joint Organised Crime Deterrence Group is made up of members from the AFP, NSW Police Force, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the NSW Crime Commission, and has been instrumental in dismantling global criminal syndicates.

In addition, an annual gathering for the International Foreign Bribery Taskforce (IFBT) hosts representatives from the AFP, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, to tackle global bribery offences.

This event was established in 2013 and provides a platform for sharing operational updates on ongoing investigations and discusses the ways in which we can exchange real-time intelligence between member nations.

Another key body is the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing that I co-Chair.  The APG comprises 41 member countries from the USA, China to all Asian and Indo-Pacific countries tackling money-laundering and CT financing by strengthening legal and policy frameworks in accordance with internationally adopted standards.

On a day-to-day basis, in policing we continue to utilise traditional practices, such as gaining crucial witness evidence. But this is complemented with efforts to analyse vast volumes of data in conjunction with our domestic and global partners.  Data is utilised for public safety intelligence via three key channels: analysis, visualisation and sharing.

Understanding the psyche of a criminal also plays a significant role when it comes to formulating hypotheses and making good use of the data we have available.

Against the changing face of crime, how well does a community-serving paradigm hold up against its “paramilitary” predecessor and has the time come to altogether rethink our approach to law enforcement?

Given the increasing threat of crimes like violent extremism and cyber-warfare, the “us and them” dichotomy does at times feel more akin to a paramilitary model. But I believe a community-serving mindset is ever-important in today’s landscape.

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel identified nine principles of policing, largely centered around the concept of community-serving policing, which I believe still stand true today. In particular, the notion that the police’s ability to perform its duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions. Also the tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; that police are members of the public who are paid to give attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen, in the interest of community welfare.  These principles definitely still resonate in today’s landscape.

What will be the greatest challenges going forward?

Legislation is a difficult thing to draft and implement, particularly when it comes to rapid technology advancements. The topic of ethics in the criminal realm is really coming to the fore, as technologies like robotics and AI begin to penetrate the criminal sphere. The concept of criminal responsibility when we have machine-learned actions occurring in automated processes, self-driving vehicles being a simple example, will change the way that the criminal law needs to be considered and applied.  So, I anticipate that how policing and law enforcement influence and discuss these emerging issues with policy makers will be a significant focus going forward.

Join Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close at the National Policing Summit, to be held 27-28 August 2019 in Melbourne.

Learn more and register here.

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