European law enforcement struggles to co-ordinate technology procurement

18 December 2019

A Guardia Civil cordon near Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, on 23 September 2019. The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is organised similar to a military unit serving as a police force responsible for domestic security. Source: Miquel Llop/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Key Points

  • European law enforcement authorities have had some success in incorporating high-tech products into their processes.
  • However, co-ordination in procurement has been limited, constraining their ability to incorporate the latest technologies.
  • Practitioners claim more effective procurement processes could help technological uptake, making law enforcement more efficient.

The EU has invested nearly EUR3 billion (USD3.4 billion) in more than 600 security research projects since 2007. Despite this substantial investment, law enforcement practitioners from across the EU claim that technologies have not been effectively adopted owing to a lack of visibility among law enforcement officers of new technologies that have become available. This, in turn, has been caused or exacerbated by a lack of co-ordination among authorities, researchers, industry, and policymakers, and a failure by policymakers to actively steer industry and researchers to the capabilities that they need. Consequently, too many research projects have lain on the shelf without being implemented.

These findings were aired during the European Union's annual Security Research Event conference, held in Helsinki on 6-7 November. Co-organised by the European Commission and Finland's Ministry of the Interior during Finland's presidency of the European Council, the event brought together practitioners across EU and national agencies to discuss security research synergies.

Matthias Oel, director of borders, interoperability, and innovation policy at DG-HOME, the European Commission's home affairs policy department, said most of the security research projects undertaken during the past 12 years have met their objectives "with good results". However, he added, "These projects suffer from limited visibility in the work of our [law enforcement] practitioners. Better communications and market uptake are the challenges for the coming years."

This sentiment was echoed by Bertwin Lussenburg, programme manager of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security's Innovation Team, where more than 1,000 people labour against terrorism, organised crime, and other security problems.

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