Shawn Bray, Director, INTERPOL Washington, United States National Central Bureau
n a small town in central Missouri, newly married and recently graduated from Truman State University, I began my career in law enforcement as a police officer. There, I gained a deep appreciation for my state and local counterparts and the vital work they do—the hardships they endure and the sacrifices they make to keep us and our communities safe. This appreciation has stayed with me throughout my experience working as a special agent for the U.S. Customs Service along the Arizona-Mexico border; as Unit Chief of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Cyber Crimes Center; and, today, nearly 25 years later, as Director of INTERPOL Washington, the United States National Central Bureau (USNCB) of the International Criminal Police Organization.
As Director, I am privileged to serve as the designated U.S. representative to INTERPOL on behalf of the Attorney General. I am also privileged in this role to oversee the activities of the USNCB, the official point of contact for all INTERPOL matters in the United States. Based in Lyon, France, INTERPOL’s vast communications and criminal intelligence network extends far beyond national borders and political alliances. In fact, INTERPOL facilitates police cooperation throughout 190 member countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, even in situations where diplomatic relations may not exist between particular countries.
A number of recent studies and assessments point to the globalization of crime as a growing threat to our local communities, our economic well-being, and—because of increasing evidence of ties to terrorist organizations—our national security. INTERPOL Washington offers U.S. law enforcement agencies a unique set of resources to aid in defending against these threats by providing around-the-clock access to vital international investigative resources that include I-24/7, INTERPOL’s secure, global police-to-police communication network; its broad array of investigative databases; and the INTERPOL Notice system.
INTERPOL Washington operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. A state-of-the-art command center in Washington, D.C., enables us to respond immediately to requests for law enforcement and humanitarian assistance Operational divisions provide investigative support in criminal activities with an international nexus that includes fugitives, human trafficking and smuggling, child exploitation, drugs, economic crimes, stolen works of art and cultural property, violent crimes, transnational gangs, and terrorism. Our services directly benefit more than 18,000 domestic law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in 189 other INTERPOL member countries engaged in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism.As the U.S. National Central Bureau, INTERPOL Washington is exclusively authorized to seek the publication of INTERPOL Notices on behalf of U.S. law enforcement agencies. Color-coded according to their purposes, INTERPOL Notices serve as requests for international law enforcement assistance in such matters as locating and apprehending fugitives (red); obtaining information on the location, identity, or illegal activities of a person of interest in a criminal investigation (blue), or locating missing persons, including missing children and parental abductions (yellow). Last year alone, INTERPOL Washington initiated over 42,500 new cases and secured the publication of more than 1,800 INTERPOL Notices to National Central Bureaus world-wide and to our state and local partners here in the United States.
One of our recent high-profile cases exemplifies the importance of international police cooperation, and the value of INTERPOL’s investigative resources. The case involved the apprehension of Ulrich Engler, a fugitive wanted by German authorities for defrauding more than 1,000 investors from multiple European countries. These investors gave more than $100 million (USD) in capital to a shell company owned by the subject. In turn, Engler promised the investors that the company would return upwards of 70 percent of their initial investment annually. Instead, Engler used the investment capital to fund personal luxuries including expensive automobiles, properties, artwork, and jewelry. On March 22, 2010, Germany obtained the publication of an INTERPOL Red Notice on Engler, who for years was able to evade capture by using a myriad of aliases and physically altering his appearance. The subject was eventually arrested under an alias by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, leading investigators to discover his true identity along with the INTERPOL Red Notice and warrants for arrest. Engler was subsequently extradited to Germany to face trial. In all, over $50 million in assets were recovered.
Great case successes such as this one do not happen in isolation. Instead, they result from the cooperation of our domestic and international law enforcement partners. To that end, INTERPOL Washington is staffed by a large complement of special agents, officers, and analysts detailed from 27 partner agencies. Without the successful integration of these agencies under one roof and the ability to coordinate effectively with their international counterparts through INTERPOL channels, the identification and arrest of fugitives like Ulrich Engler would be severely hampered.
Under its Law Enforcement Information Sharing Strategy, INTERPOL Washington is continuing its efforts to share access to and boost capacity among our federal, state, local, and tribal partners. To date, we have delivered INTERPOL resources and established IT systems to support direct access to INTERPOL databases in more than 33 states free of charge. As a result, these agencies collectively run over 140,000 checks a day on INTERPOL systems. In another step forward, eight states have now federated the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) wanted query with the INTERPOL person query when they perform roadside checks on a subject. Last year, our domestic law enforcement partners conducted more than 222 million passport checks, 41 million name checks, and 2.6 million stolen motor vehicle checks across the United States. Access to INTERPOL resources continues to grow and to demonstrate its value in deterring international crimes and criminals.
In the future, we look to continue this critical mission by releasing e-learning modules on INTERPOL resources. This training will include an overview video of INTERPOL Washington and web-based training on INTERPOL, INTERPOL Washington, INTERPOL Notices, the Stolen and Lost Travel Documents program, and the International Fugitives program. These resources will equip law enforcement officers across the country with the knowledge and tools necessary to apply for and obtain INTERPOL Notices or to check INTERPOL databases. Access to INTERPOL resources and training are provided free of charge to U.S. law enforcement. We look forward to working with you to keep our communities safe.
Please let us know how we may assist you and your investigations. Contact INTERPOL Washington at 202-616-9000 or www.interpol.gov. ♦
Please cite as:
Shawn Bray, "INTERPOL Washington: When Transnational Crime Comes to Our Communities," From the Director, The Police Chief 80 (May 2013): 1819.