A Look Inside Interpol in Washington

Interpol's office in Washington serves as the designated representative to Interpol, based in Lyon, pictured above. Interpol's office in Washington serves as the designated representative to Interpol, based in Lyon, pictured above. Francois Mori/AP file photo

Few Americans have a sense for the International Criminal Police Organization, better known as Interpol, beyond the depiction of swashbuckling agents in movies like Lord of War. In one scene from the 2005 film, a character played by Ethan Hawke, outfitted in Interpol paraphernalia, ambushes an international gunrunner, shouting, “Let me see your papers!”

“The biggest challenge is trying to overcome the pop-culture version of Interpol,” said Shawn A. Bray, who was installed last October as the new director of Interpol Washington, the U.S. National Central Bureau. “There are no Interpol agents. It's actually a partnership of [existing] law-enforcement agencies, so it has no authority in any country.”

Not only does Interpol Washington have no enforcement capability, but it has been something of an orphan since the United States became a full member of Interpol in 1947. Among its foster parents: the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Homeland Security Department. Since 2003, the latter two have shared custody of the U.S. National Central Bureau, switching off every three years.

For Bray, a typical day consists of processing Red Notices—which advise law-enforcement agencies in 190 member countries to be on the lookout for international fugitives—and representing the interests of state, local, and tribal law-enforcement agencies to their counterparts overseas. Interpol is a clearinghouse for information on kingpins, terrorists, and other malevolent actors who cross international borders.

“Prior to 9/11, Interpol was not a 24/7 organization,” Bray said. “It actually had office hours, and then they went dark…. It used to be that issuing an international lookout, a Red Notice, would take months and was a very laborious process. If you were lucky, you were faxing documents back and forth. Now we see notices issued out of the U.S. within a matter of two or three hours. In two or three hours, 190 member countries are all looking.”

Raised outside St. Louis, Bray attended what is now Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. He started his career in law enforcement as a special agent assigned to the U.S. Customs Service’s Office of Investigations in Arizona.

After the Customs Service merged with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2003, Bray rose through the ranks of the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eventually serving as a Homeland Security investigations operations chief responsible for the Southeast region. Before becoming director of Interpol Washington, he spent three years as the agency’s deputy director.

After hours, the 47-year-old can be found straddling a hog. “My motorcycle [a Harley Davidson Road King] is a big touring bike without all the bells and whistles,” he said. “What I like is the fact that there’s no radio or anything else on there. It’s just a large motorcycle with a large engine. It gives you a chance to get away from some of the noise and out on the road.”

This article appeared in the Thursday, March 7, 2013 edition of National Journal Daily.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.