Friday, May 03, 2013

US-Canada Seek Integrated Cross-Border Policing

Carl Meyer reports

In the wake of a dramatic RCMP reveal of two people arrested in Canada in connection with a plot to derail a passenger train, Canadians may have questioned why the United States Department of Homeland Security and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation were involved in the operation.
Law enforcement agencies in Canada and the US are now working together in an unprecedented way, says the RCMP—and the two countries are hammering out a plan to let agents in both countries drive back and forth across the border as though it wasn’t there.
Canadian and American police agencies are currently locked in private talks over how to effectively launch pilot projects that would allow American agents from organizations like the FBI and the US Drug Enforcement Administration to be accredited as police officers in Canada, with the power to arrest individuals on the street like any Canadian cop. 
Specially-designated police can already conduct such operations in shared waterways, after the Harper government’s spring 2012 budget implementation legislation changed several Canadian laws to make permanent a program to accredit such maritime-based US and Canadian agents. 
Certain designated members of the RCMP and US Coast Guard undergo specialized training, and when they head out on an operation, they are overseen by the host country’s officers, and operate under the host country’s criminal justice system.
The Canada-US Beyond the Border perimeter security plan, laid out in December 2011, calls for the “next generation” of this type of policing: moving the concept to land. But doing so hasn’t been easy: two pilot projects that were supposed to have been launched by last summer are still in legal limbo.
“We’re still trying to negotiate...the challenge is, in the land environment, it’s much more complex,” said Mr. Oliver.
“The possibility of having contact with the general public is greater, because of interaction with’s the visibility with the public,” he said.
“The other thing is that, in the maritime environment, you have a very fixed geographical the land environment, where do you set the limit? Is it 10 kilometres from the border? Is it 20 kilometres from the border? Is it 25 kilometres?”
But what the force is looking for is to allow its agents to work across the border in operations that require it—so it wouldn’t necessarily want Canadian agents to be accredited throughout the entire US, or vice versa.
“In terms of the vision, I don’t see Canadian officers being cross-designated and working in Los Angeles on a full-time basis. I mean, there are protocols, and we work joint investigations, but we don’t need that tool there,” he said.
“I think in terms of the next decade or so, we’d certainly like to see the evolution of integrated cross-border law enforcement. We’d take our crime-fighting capability to the next level, which is bringing the [maritime] concept to the land environment.” 
 After 9/11, Canada and the US signed the Smart Border Declaration, which has an accompanying plan describing how police agents should co-operate closer and share more information. As part of that plan, Mr. Oliver said, IBETs were multiplied along the border.
At this point, the two countries were sharing information and decisions within the IBETs, and operating under a “strategic layer” that involved American agents at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. The US Coast Guard and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement are both in Ottawa, he said, sharing intelligence and helping identify targets for the IBET teams to go after.
The IBET collaboration revealed some data. There were “113 organized crime groups” and “115 criminal entrepreneurs” that operate along the border, said Mr. Oliver. They were also able to gather data on drug and human smuggling.  
The two governments decided to move to entrench the concept permanently, drawing up a framework that was eventually signed in May 2009. The framework, said Mr. Oliver, lays out everything about how cross-border policing works, such as who has the authority to designate cross-border officers, the type of training they receive, what equipment they can use, how officers get accredited in each country, and which laws and rules apply where. It also lays out civilian oversight, and police discipline, he added.

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