By: Chuck Andary, Windsor Law Student
The upcoming unveiling of the border security plan between the United States and Canada will undoubtedly dominate news headlines and trigger much debate in the blogosphere. Concerns over privacy, sovereignty, economic impact, border wait times, and everything else relating to international relations will be raised. Ahead of this announcement, however, the governments of both countries announced another agreement to allow teams of Canadian and American officers to cross the border “in pursuit of suspected criminals or terrorists.”
There are many jurisdictional concerns that will be raised over this initiative; are American officers chasing American suspects bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Canadian suspects being chased by American officers be granted extradition hearings? How much leverage will be given to officers in chasing suspected criminals – can they come and go as they please, for an indefinite period of time, or will the threats have to reach a certain level before imminent action is required?
These questions should be answered with a more detailed release of the agreement, but one thing should be apparent now; this agreement will lead to better information sharing between law enforcement agencies, both domestically and internationally.
I question how often officers really need to cross the border to arrest suspected criminals and terrorists. Indeed, these arrests can be made by local authorities at the request of officers from other jurisdictions. The efficacy of the direct effect of this agreement is questionable. Indirectly, however, the benefits cannot be overstated. It is easy to simply tell law enforcement agencies to share information and it is easy to create a program where information sharing is more streamlined, but the fact remains that there is still lingering distrust between the various agencies.
Ideally, the Ontario Provincial Police would share information with the RCMP. The RCMP would share information with the FBI. The FBI would share information with state police forces. We would have an open forum for information sharing between the agencies. 10 years after 9/11, this is still largely more theoretical than practical.
Cross-border police officers are a step in the right direction in solving this problem, albeit indirectly. Creating teams of officers from various forces allows these officers to bond with each other during courses, to form relationships, and to feel more at ease with sharing information. Having state police, provincial, FBI, and RCMP members all form one unit opens up the lines of communication and helps to relieve lingering distrust.
No, this team will not solve the problems relating to information sharing, but it will have a positive effect. More cross-jurisdictional (both domestically and internationally) projects such as this one designed to integrate aspects of the various law enforcement agencies will create an atmosphere that is conducive to teamwork and common goals. Information will be shared more freely as the bonds between individual members of the agencies grow.