The international network of police unions was started by the CPA in 1996 and now has approximately 1.5 million members affiliated through national police associations and federations. ICPRA membership includes police unions from four continents, speaking over 30 languages, connected through ICPRA.
ICPRA was established in 1996 when the Canadian Police Association extended invitations to police association executives from around the globe to meet in a formal setting as part of the CPA's Annual General Meeting in Windsor, Ontario. Delegates at that first meeting included Fred Broughton, Chairman, Police Federation of England and Wales; David McClurg, Secretary, Police Federation of Northern Ireland; Jeff Moseley, General Secretary, Police Federation of England and Wales; Tom Rowat, Deputy General Secretary, the Scottish Police Federation; Fred Emerson, Police Federation of Northern Ireland; Bill Johnson, General Counsel, National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) USA; Jim Fraser, Chairman, Scottish Police Federation.
As each of the delegates attending spoke about the issues and challenges they faced at the local level it soon became apparent that the bonds and common issues between police associations were much closer than the distances that separated them. Since that first meeting, ICPRA meetings have been held biannually and are hosted by a participating country. Canada played host again in 1998 ensuring that a strong foundation was in place. The Police Federation of England and Wales hosted the meeting in 2000 and in 2002 the Police Federation of Australia in conjunction with the Queensland Police Union welcomed international police labour leaders to Surfers Paradise, Queensland.
In November of 2004, the Scottish Police Federation hosted the 2004 ICPRA meeting in Edinburgh. As had been the case at each of the previous meetings a full agenda covered issues such as health and safety, wages and benefits and a close look at the trends and practices including private security that affect policing around the world. At the 2004 meeting delegates approved the In Principle Agreement document referenced at the bottom of this page. For the first time delegates established a common cause around several fundamental labour relations issues. The 2004 meeting served as the stepping off point for discussions on the future of the organization. Delegates also agreed to establish a General Secretariat for the organization and the Canadian Police Association volunteered to assume that role until the 2006 meeting.
The 2006 meeting was hosted by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting was chaired by the National Association of Police Organizations. Delegates submitted advance reports on several of the agenda items and there was lively discussion and debate on all items at the meeting. The key outcome of the meeting was the agreement on future objects of the organization. This included a name change to the ICPRA to better identify the organization as a collaboration of employee representative associations. Delegates appointed a slate of officers to conduct business and follow up activity between meetings.
In October 2008, the New Zealand Police Association hosted the 2008 ICPRA meeting in Wellington, NZ. The agenda covered issues such as “Internationalization of Policing”, global trends in restructuring of police forces and how police associations can respond. Though the role of the police in different parts of the world was the main topic. Developed nations are increasingly called on to contribute to policing experiences and expertise offshore through the UN, EU and other multilateral missions. The role differs from peacekeeping missions to give support, to monitor, to advise, to report and train the local police, i.e. Afghanistan, Georgia and Kosovo. Finally, the meeting served as the stepping off point for discussions on the future of the organization under the theme: “Advancing ICPRA”. The Police Union in Denmark was selected to host the next ICPRA meeting in May 2010 in Copenhagen.
In May 2010, the Police Union in Denmark hosted the ICPRA meeting in Copenhagen. Nearly 30 delegates, representing more than 30 countries, spanning four continents and representing the interests of well over one million professional police and law enforcement officers worldwide, participated. The theme of the conference was “the Effect of the Global Recession on Policing and Police”. The theme reflected that the worldwide recession is the single biggest issue that has impacted on the ICPRA-members over the last two years. The conference stated that the recession would continue to have impact on policing, as governments continue to cut public spending which naturally also affects the police. However, crime continues to rise. The police services worldwide will continue to face pressure “doing more with less”. And many of our members can expect to be paid less to do it.
Another key-theme on the conference was “violence and threats against police officers”. The global financial crisis is amplifying social unrest and unemployment which has resulted in an increase in violent behavior and cases concerning violence against police officers worldwide. EuroCOP, in particular, has made a great effort to try to draw the public´s attention to this increasing problem; among other things by launching a campaign against police violence. EuroCOP had a ribbon solidarity pin developed especially for this campaign.
Furthermore the so-called police reform agenda, under which police services all around the world are re-thinking workforce composition, was discussed. Central to that theme is the “carving up” of a range of policing roles into different jobs – and then providing only the limited training required for that specific job. This goes beyond civilianization of support roles. It has led to the creation of new types of operational ‘second tier’ police, such as the UK’s PCSOs or New Zealand’s Authorized Officers. These officers wear uniforms, and have some power – but are not versatile, well-trained police constables in the traditional sense.
The risk is that these changes undermine the concept of the highly trained, adaptable, generalist police constable. The police reform agenda is driven by academic and administrative thinking, which is developed and shared across police services. The underlying issues and pressures – such as insatiable demand for police services, combined with government funding pressures – are common to all the jurisdictions worldwide. The conference stated that we can improve our ability to respond as police unions and associations, in our own jurisdictions, if we also share our views and experience.
Finally, international policing issues were discussed. That included operational policing with an international dimension – such as policing the drugs trade, people smuggling and other organized crime and terrorism. Those issues feed through to new work priorities and pressures for police services worldwide.
There is much to be gained by being well informed as police association representatives, when we engage with administrations and governments to improve the legislative and policy environment our members are working in. We can learn valuable lessons from each others’ experience in these fields, and related issues affecting our members, like corruption and increasing prevalence of firearms in crime. All of the members also have members involved in international deployments, in peacekeeping, post-conflict stabilization, reconstruction or capacity building roles. It is not an over-statement to say that police services are now as important to peacekeeping and international conflict resolution as are militaries. The logic behind that is clear. A society with a fair, effective and efficient justice system – built round a good police service – is much more likely to be stable and peaceful.
Involvement in international deployments has generally been very positive for members at a personal level. But the increasing demands of such deployments pose challenges for many of us. Those include placing pressure on our own police service’s infrastructures and resources – planning and managing deployments, and covering the gaps left on the frontline. They include practical difficulties, with potential impacts to career progression, pay and conditions, and ongoing health support or compensation for conditions developed ‘in theatre’.
Those are all issues which police associations and unions have a clear role in responding to, on behalf of members – and they are issues on which we can assist each other through ICPRA. ICPRA has a clear potential to play a role in liaising with the organizations that initiate and mandate the international missions.
Key amongst those organizations is the United Nations. The UN in recent years has responded to the increasing reliance on police in peacekeeping though development of a Police Division within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, or “DPKO”.
This division has been involved in developing standards, norms, and doctrine governing deployments. ICPRA members are being deployed – yet police associations and unions have had no input into this process, to ensure that members’ interests are looked after. ICPRA therefore decided to continue engaging and building up relations with the UN in a mutually beneficial way – both to ensure our members’ interests are protected, and to assist in achieving rule-of-law objectives, by lending our experience and expertise in the development of strong, democratic police associations alongside police services. (The large US-association, Fraternal Order of Police, offered to host the next ICPRA meeting in 2012 in the United States).
In March 2012, the lagre US-org. hosted the ICPRA meeting in Baltimore. In June 2014, the South African Police Union (SAPU) hosted the ICPRA meeting in Cape Town. EuroCOP will host the next ICPRA meeting in April 2016 in Torremolinos, Spain.
ICPRA was established to bring national police unions together to discuss police union issues, to share information and to foster strong relationships between national associations. Since the first meeting in 1996 additional national, and now international organizations, have participated. Information sharing and networking continues between meetings and from all accounts participants benefit from the dialogue, expertise and shared experience.
In 1998 the Police Union in Denmark became affiliated to ICPRA (formerly known as ILEC, International Law Enforcement Council) and has participated in every ICPRA meeting since then. Normally meetings are held biannually.
At the EuroCOP Congress in November 2007 in Brussels, the delegates voted to approve affiliation with ICPRA, which means that ICPRA is now represented worldwide.