The International Council of Police Representative Associations (ICPRA) is an umbrella body for police and law enforcement unions, federations and associations.

At its council meeting in Cape Town in 2014, ICPRA hosted delegates and observers representing over 40 police unions, from as many nations and speaking many languages.  Collectively these attendees represented approximately 2 million police officers across the world.

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 1996 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 Council meetings have been held biennially 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.

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. In 2008, the secretariat was taken by the Police Union in Denmark. The current General Secretary is Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation, who was first elected to the role in 2010.

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 an executive committee to conduct business and follow up activity between meetings.

Since then meetings have been hosted as follows;

2008    Wellington by the New Zealand Police Association

2010    Copenhagen by the Police Union in Denmark

2012   Baltimore by the Fraternal Order of Police and Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

2014    Cape Town by the South African Police Union

2016   Torremolinos by the European Confederation of Police

ICPRA is registered in the state of Tennessee in the United States of America

2012 saw ICPRA launch the International Police Lawyers Network. This initiative brought lawyers who work with police unions and associations from all over the world together for the first time in a formal setting. This invaluable network of knowledge and experience ensures those who work with the unique challenges faced by police and law enforcement officers, are able to share legal argument, case law and expertise for the ultimate benefit of all members. The Network now meets biennially and in conjunction with ICPR Council.

Principle Agreement Document
At the 2004 meeting delegates approved the In Principle Agreement document. This document, covering six critical areas of policing, laid the foundations for the work and direction of ICPRA over the next decade and its contents remain as relevant today as they did then.

Assaults on Police, Risk of Contracting Infectious Diseases & Legislative Protection:

The International Council of Police Representative Associations views attacks on a police officer acting in the lawful execution of their duty as an attack on society itself. We call on governments to take seriously the question of prevention, prosecution, penalty and post incident support for officers’ subject of such attacks.

Equipment Standards:

The International Council of Police Representative Associations calls upon all police governing bodies to provide equipment that meets or exceeds minimum safety standards that provide officers with a safe work environment.

Independence and Integrity of Investigations of Police:

The ICPRA argues that the public deserve a police force that is free from improper prosecutions or sanctions borne out of undue political influence and special interest group pressure.

Government Obligation to provide for Public Safety:

The ICPRA argues that public safety, the core obligation of government, is being compromised when governments choose to utilise the services of inadequately trained and qualified persons as an inappropriate substitute for properly trained law enforcement professionals in public policing responsibilities.

Police Mobility and Professionalism:

The ICPRA seeks an internationally accepted accreditation system for law enforcement professionals that allows for the increased mobility of police through initiatives such as mutual recognition of the equivalency of qualifications from other jurisdictions, comparable to doctors, nurses and other like professionals.

Freedom of Association:

The ICPRA, through structures such as the International Labour Organisation, calls upon all Governments to recognise the right of police officers to freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively

International Labour Organisation
ICPRA is only as strong and effective as the sum of its parts and we are delighted that our organisation continues to go from strength to strength. Increasingly ICPRA is being turned to by fledgling police unions in developing nations for assistance and we are increasingly viewed as a ‘go to’ organisation on policing developments across the world.

ICPRA has been fostering relationships with the United Nations since 2010 and has an established link with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva. This relationship provides tremendous opportunities to enhance working conditions for police officers in every nation on earth.

In 2015 the then ICPRA Chairman, Greg O’Connor and General Secretary, Calum Steele undertook a fact-finding and information sharing visit to the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.

The Chairman and General Secretary met with senior officials and personnel within the Freedom of Association Branch, the Public and Private Services Team, the Public Service and Utilities Sector and the Social Dialogue and Tripartism Unit.

The meetings covered a whole range of issues in respect of police unions, freedom of association and collective bargaining and have reinforced that ICPRA is filling a “gap in the market.” The meetings also laid bare the unique position of police unions on the question of collective bargaining. This position was noted time and again and is a regular provision of many of the ILO conventions.

The ILO is built on a tripartite cooperative basis where governments, employers and workers all work together to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. The ILO publishes a guide for improved governance – National Tripartite Social Dialogue which is a useful document for understanding the expectations for collective bargaining and workplace organisation. The guide is available in several languages and can be found here http://goo.gl/q5cpjr

The investigatory and rulings role of the ILO is particularly important in the event of a complaint of non-compliance with any of its conventions. Clearly complaints of non-compliance are likely only to be made against governments and as such it is open to representative bodies to raise complaints directly with the ILO. The bulk of the complaints raised with the ILO come from private sector unions with public sector union complaints (and indeed wider engagement) being somewhat limited. The meetings at the ILO confirmed there would be nothing to prevent a police union making complaints to the ILO and provide opportunities for ICPRA to provide greater assistance in this area.

The following three conventions of the ILO are particularly relevant for police unions.

ILO Convention 87, http://goo.gl/8zulR3 which is the corner-stone for freedom of association and the right to organise contains a provision (article 9.1) that effectively allow governments to set their own standards on these fundamental rights for police officers. In simple terms this means that internationally agreed minimum standards do not automatically apply to police officers across the world.

ILO Convention 98 http://goo.gl/wRXbEf concerning the application of the principles of the right to organise and to bargain collectively contains a provision (article 5.1) that provides that the extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention applying to the police shall be determined by governments.

ILO Convention 154 http://goo.gl/w7LNm9 concerning the promotion of collective bargaining also contains a provision (Article 1.2) that provides the guarantees provided by this Convention applying to the police may be determined by governments

However in 2013 a committee of experts (in the case of Norway – Definitive report 368 http://goo.gl/WlBac4 ) determined that if a government HAS NOT explicitly determined standards for the police (and armed forces) that the provisions of Conventions 98 and 154 do apply.

It should also be noted that unless any Convention explicitly states otherwise, the provisions do apply to police.

Despite this there is not one single convention anywhere in the world that defines a minimum set of rights for police officers (and the armed forces) – this is again something that ICPRA should consider.

The ILO has many avenues open to it to encourage and seek compliance with its conventions and goes as far as recording and publishing breaches (where they are found) in its own Freedom of Association Digest. This digest is available in several languages and any government finding its name therein comes under significant pressure to comply with the provisions of the Conventions. The digest can be found here http://goo.gl/9s4SNK

One of the key messages taken out of the meetings was that we should not seek to do things on our own. Encouragement was given to ICPRA to seek links and forge alliances with organisations such as the International Trades Union Congress National (ITUC), Public Service International (PSI) and Union Network International (UNI). It was clear that opportunities to seek improvements for police labour rights across the world are real but need to be carefully developed.

In September 2017, following an invitation from PSI, ICPRA President Tom Stamatakis participated in the ILO Symposium on Whisletblowing. This was the first occasion any police union had taken an active part in any formal event at the ILO. PSI are a recognised NGO at the ILO. This was followed in May 2018 when the ICPRA President Tom Stamatakis and General Secretary Calum Steele were invited as part of the PSI delegation to attend the 107th International Labour Conference in Geneva.

This was the first time police officers had ever been represented as workers at the ILO and provided an invaluable insight into the workings of one of the largest collaborative bodies on earth. Pending decisions by Council 2018, it is likely ICPRA will be attending the 108th International Labour Conference as an NGO in its own right.

The Future

At a time police and law enforcement organisations across the world face increasingly hostile governments, working conditions and challenges unforeseen a decade ago, it is more important than ever that police unions continue to cooperate and share international best practice. Our police leaders and our politicians are scouring the globe, taking ideas from each other over how to cheapen and de-value policing. It has never been more important that we are fully equipped to counteract their manoeuvres.

Even now, governments across the world continue to use the excuse of austerity to drive down their investment in policing and law enforcement and whilst driving down investment, governments actively promote the outsourcing of police and law enforcement activities to the private security industry and wider private sector organisations.

Police and law enforcement officers are highly trained, highly skilled, professional public servants and keeping their citizens safe should be the top priority for any Government. Commitment to that priority cannot be demonstrated by replacing highly skilled, accountable police and law enforcement officers with cheaper, unaccountable pseudo police officers working for organisations whose sole priority is profit.

The promotion of the private security industry in the delivery of policing functions has taken place without any public consultation and without delivering any improvement in the service delivered to the communities. This promotion has taken place without any public call for such action and little if any consideration to how such outsourcing impacts on public confidence given the very real expectations of accountability placed on police and law enforcement officers across the world.

ICPRA can assist member organisations standing against this tide by ensuring the same consistent message of opposition is delivered in all of our domestic jurisdictions. We can learn from each other and stand as custodians of a free democratic, accountable police service.

2015 will be remembered amongst other things as the year, the rest of the world woke up to the realities of the terrorist threat on our own doorsteps. That reality has now touched almost all police jurisdictions and has continued almost each month of each year since. In light of this, it is critical that ICPRA ensures the equipment and training available to police officers is of the highest standard possible. Only by sharing and learning can we be in that position.

Unified voices from all corners of the globe are harder to ignore that those of lone bodies advancing causes for their members. No police force can take comfort from their own standards if those of our neighbours are so poor as to make attacks more likely.

Millions of police officers are denied this most basic of human rights yet with every passing day more and more stand up in the face of adversity to have their voices heard.

Fledgling organisations turn to ICPRA for help and assistance. We know that there is no perfect model for police workforce representation and the ability to pick and choose from the myriad of different organisational structures we are all part of, offers tremendous opportunities for these aspirational bodies to learn from for their own needs. Coupled with that are ICPRA’s strong links with the ILO and their acceptance as the global standard bearers for such rights.

It is in all our interests for police officers to have the opportunity to enjoy the rights and freedoms we have fought so hard for and ICPRA is well positioned to help the less fortunate to secure these rights.



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