Mon. Jan 30th, 2023
2022 European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC). Photo: Europol

The Hague, 7 October 2022

This week, Europol confirmed its position as the centre of the European policing world as police chiefs and senior law enforcement representatives from the European Union and key partner countries convened to Europol’s headquarters for the 2022 European Police Chiefs Convention (EPCC).

Co-hosted this year by Europol and the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, represented by their Police President Martin Vondrášek, on 4-5 October the EPCC brought together over 380 high-level representatives from 49 countries to discuss ways to address today’s security challenges while securing tomorrow’s opportunities.

Keynote speeches were delivered by the Director General of the Spanish National Police Francisco Pardo Piqueras, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner and the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Michael O’Flaherty, among others.

Opening the EPCC, Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, commented:

The pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have profoundly changed the internal security landscape in Europe. More than ever, law enforcement needs to be resilient in such uncertain times. This resilience is not only built through countering the threats which have materialised, but also preparing for the ones which are still on the horizon. Europol’s EPCC allows for this cooperation to happen on every level while showing the way forward for law enforcement.

The topic of Ukraine was high up on this year’s agenda. In a moving address, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, explained how Ukrainian law enforcement has had to learn to work in new, difficult conditions. Yet their overarching goal remains the same – to protect people’s lives. Europol’s Executive Director assured him of the full support of the European law enforcement community who has continued to maintain close contact with the Ukrainian authorities through the Ukrainian Liaison Officer posted at Europol’s headquarters.

Keynote speakers also underlined the need to innovate, to strengthen resilience of  police forces, and to win back the trust and support of the public communities. In this regard, the NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell highlighted the importance of inclusivity in law enforcement, pointing out that “the public has to see themselves in the communities we serve, and we must see ourselves in them”. Commissioner Sewell went on to add that “inclusion strengthens the collective and interconnects the stakeholders of public safety. When we diversify, we normalise the unusual.”

This was echoed in the keynote address of the Italian Deputy Director-General of Public Security, Vittorio Rizzi, who called for a greater exchange of best practices on the matter. “Law enforcement needs the societal consensus to administer the most precious responsibility entrusted to police forces in every democracy: the safety and security of our communities”, he added.

The European Customs DG meeting also took place alongside the EPCC, with the police-customs cooperation being one of the priorities of the Czech Presidency.

One place to meet all

With high-level delegations from over 49 countries and 10 organisations, the EPCC has become the key annual event for chiefs of police to meet their European and international peers all under one roof.

Bilateral and multilateral meetings took place at Europol’s headquarters, allowing the delegates to discuss operational matters and further strengthen their cooperation.

Working Arrangement with Qatar

On the margins of the EPCC, a Working Arrangement was signed between the Ministry of Interior of the State of Qatar and Europol. This Arrangement introduces a secure system for the exchange of information between Qatar with law enforcement authorities of the EU Member States, as well as with third countries and organisations associated with Europol. This follows a Liaison Officer Agreement signed in September by Europol and the United Arab Emirates, further linking the Middle East with their European counterparts.

Innovation as the main driving force

The need for innovation underpinned all of this year’s EPCC discussions, with law enforcement increasingly having to operate in a digital environment characterised by ever increasing volumes of information.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was one such topic discussed, with the delegates confirming the concerns raised in the Joint Declaration of European Police Chiefs on the AI Act of May 2022. While the Police Chiefs welcome the European’s Commission’s  initiative to regulate AI, they believe it essential that the rules adopted take into account the specificities of the operational work carried out by law enforcement.

A workshop was also dedicated to policing the metaverse. While this virtual environment is still at an early stage, the delegates assessed and anticipated its potential criminal exploitation to develop the right response and skills needed to mitigate such a threat. A number of the key findings can be found in the latest report of the Observatory Function of the Europol Innovation Lab on the topic.

Following the success of last year’s edition, the Europol Excellence Award in Innovation was awarded to the most innovative initiatives and operations in law enforcement. A total of 70 entries were submitted from law enforcement authorities across 14 countries, with the French Gendarmerie winning the Excellence Award for the most innovative project and the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) winning the Excellence Award for the most innovative operation.

Where the new meets the old

Two exhibitions were unveiled at Europol’s headquarters on the occasion of the EPCC:

•    The Czech Presidency showcased its new technological advances, such as drones, biometric sets and radiation detection equipment aimed to make law enforcement work more efficient and accurate.

•    The Italian Arma dei Carabinieri presented artefacts rescued in police operations against the trafficking of cultural goods. The archaeological goods on show include a Corinthian helmet, a marble Arturo Dazzi statue stolen from a private chapel and an Etruscan stamnos. This exhibition will be made open to the public on the occasion of the Just Peace Open Day organised on 16 October by the Hague Humanity Hub.

Source – Europol

Joint declaration of the European police chiefs on the AI Act

The Hague, 7 October 2022

On 21 April 2021, the European Commission published a draft regulation designed to govern artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act – “AI Act”).

We, the European Police Chiefs, generally welcome the Commission’s initiative for regulation, because rarely has a new technology been associated with as many opportunities and risks as artificial intelligence. However, in line with the objectives of the draft regulation, we would like to emphasise that the rules formulated could seriously affect police work and address the following particularly critical aspects:

1) AI is absolutely essential for police work
Given the fact that the number of crimes committed in digital space is increasing and that these offences already involve significant quantities of data – in the multi-digit terabyte range in individual investigations – the use of AI-supported tools and machine learning is indispensable for the successful fight against crime and the enforcement of the law. AI is an essential part of a high number of digital forensics and analysis tools, including commercial ones, which are currently used by law enforcement authorities to analyse ever-increasing volumes of data and extract digital evidence. Only through the use of AI will it be possible to respond to the ever-increasing data quantities to be analysed in an effective and efficient manner. Without the help of advanced technologies, we will not be able to stay abreast of the progressing digital transformation, to adequately analyse the rapidly increasing data volumes – frequently under particular time pressure – and to initiate necessary police measures to enforce the law and avert danger. For law enforcement to bring criminals to justice, mitigate crimes and adequately protect victims in the digital age, the use of AI-supported tools is not a choice but a necessity.

2) No disclosure of particularly sensitive data
The discharge of a significant proportion of police tasks involves the processing of particularly sensitive data, the disclosure of which is subject to certain restrictions and cannot be authorised on the basis of the decision-making powers of the police authorities alone. Therefore, when rules regarding access to test and training data by third parties are laid down, it must be ensured that adequate consideration is given to the sensitivity of police data, for instance by excluding unrestricted remote access.

3) No blanket classification as high-risk
The risk-based approach advocated by the European Commission, which aims at counteracting the unregulated and uncontrolled development and application of this technology, is plausible. This must not, however, lead to a situation where entire areas of application affecting the security authorities are generally classified as high-risk and thus subjected to significant restrictions by default. The use of a fingerprint quality check algorithm created by machine learning, for instance, must not result in a blanket high-risk classification of the entire process. In fact, most of the AI applications used for law enforcement work in the European Union do not pose a high risk of harm to the health and safety and the fundamental rights and freedom of persons. This is because, AI applications such as speech and text recognition (text classification, machine translation), information extraction (named entity recognition), object detection or image classification, are aimed at automating data pre-processing and processing tasks, so as to relieve human analysts from repetitive tasks and from exposure to gruesome materials, and allow them to focus on more cognitive tasks. These AI systems are used to support the work of criminal analysts faced with a dramatic increase in the number and size of structured and unstructured datasets, but they do not involve automatic decisionmaking.

The rules need to enable the specific evaluation on a case-by-case basis and the assessment of risk in the concrete individual case. In this context, it has to be borne in mind that the systems employed by security authorities are exclusively used in line with the relevant police powers and legal provisions and that they are already subject to rigorous control. These systems do not replace but only support investigative activities. The results achieved by the use of AI are always evaluated and checked by humans, i.e. specially trained and skilled police officers. Moreover, many AI-supported tools are applied to data that has been seized in the context of a criminal investigation, meaning there is no real-time dimension or indiscriminate analysis of data.

For this reason, we wish to formulate the following expectations of the future regulation of AI:

  • The regulation must provide for exceptions applying to law enforcement authorities, which take sufficient account of the peculiarities and specific requirements of police tasks within the already existing legal framework as well as the realities of investigations in the digital age.
  • The regulation must not lead to a situation where the police cannot use AI at all or only with considerable effort or delay. Therefore, suitable expedited procedures are needed to ensure that police tasks are performed effectively and without delay while ensuring the necessary checks and balances.
  • The regulation must include relevant terms, definitions and phrases (e.g. mandatory, transparent, plausible, explicable), clearly define them in a legally reliable manner and must not be in conflict with existing tasks of the security authorities.
  • The regulation and the definition of AI systems it contains must not lead to a situation where already established IT procedures, which thus far have not been generally considered as AI, fall within the scope of the regulation and may therefore no longer be used.
  • The regulation must enable the concrete evaluation and assessment of risks in specific cases and must not make general provisions for a blanket classification of police systems involving AI as high-risk.
  • The regulation must not contradict already established legislation with relevance for the police, particularly the existing data protection and data processing provisions, or result in a collision of pertinent legal norms.
  • The regulation should also recognise the criminal use of AI and the need to empower law enforcement to investigate those “cyber-enabled” crimes.

We as the police welcome the European Commission’s initiative to regulate AI. However, in order for the police to continue to effectively carry out the tasks assigned to it by law in the areas of crime control and law enforcement to offer protection to and provide security for all citizens living in the EU, it is essential that the rules to be adopted take into account the specific objectives and existing legal control mechanisms regarding the use of AI by security authorities. At the same time, separate case-by-case assessments or exceptions should be provided for when it comes to these systems and cases of application. This is the only way to maintain the security authorities’ capacity to act in the future in a digital environment which is characterised by the ever-increasing volumes of information including personal data.

Source – Europol

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