In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, police forces across the globe have developed new domestic and international counter-terrorism strategies, while international police agencies have likewise stepped up their efforts to combat terrorism. Because of the nature of the threat, many of these activities require greater international cooperation, leading police organizations to act more independently in relation to the dictates of the national governments of their respective states. As a result of this bureaucratic autonomy, local police forces are developing and sharing expert ‘systems of knowledge’ with fellow professionals across national boundaries.
Granted, as Alice Hills argues, cultural and institutional gaps can frustrate attempts to spread “systems of knowledge” among global police forces. But I do believe, as Sullivan and Wirtz point out, that there is such a thing as a transnational ethos of law enforcement that can aid in the construction of global policing networks. One last point: while globalization and technology as well as forward-thinking policy has aided the rise of network policing, there is an interesting parallel to an earlier age of policing. In a chapter of Countering Terrorism and WMD, Lindsay Clutterbuck compares Al Qaeda to the anarchists who terrorized Europe and America one hundred years ago. Response was at first fragmented, but a transnational network of Western police soon sprung up to counter the anarchist threat. One of Clutterbuck’s most interesting observations was the role played by American and British liason officers who set up shop in respective foreign capitols to network with other constables and gather leads.
Network forms of organization makes this kind of collaboration much easier and more effective than it was in the industrial age–and it’s still the best chance we have of countering transnational gangs and terrorism.