Michael Harris: “[P]olice forces in both countries already have those cross-border powers, and have had them for a long time.”

In today’s iPolitics, Michael Harris comes out against NxtGen, a key Beyond the Border (BTB) Action Plan initiative.  Harris argues that the current system for crossborder law enforcement already works, and avoids the thorny crossborder legal issue of the use of deadly force by binationally integrated police teams.

The NxtGen, or the next generation of integrated cross-border law enforcement, initiatives “are designed to facilitate cross-border intelligence and information-sharing at and between land borders. NxtGen will also, like Shiprider, authorize designated officers to enforce the law on either side of the border.

To get a quick sense of NxtGen’s benefits, check out this 2012 Homeland Security Northern Border Strategy report and this 2011 speech from Attorney General Eric Holder.

From Harris’s article:

Those strange words raise a question. Why should Canada enter into a cross-border policing arrangement with the Americans, NxtGen, that would allow armed Mounties jurisdiction in the U.S. and armed American law officers jurisdiction in this country?

The short answer is that the perimeter security deal notwithstanding, we shouldn’t. Neither the culture, nor the differing approaches to law enforcement in the two countries will make it a happy arrangement.

Even more important, this unhealthy level of integration is almost always justified by the pitch that greater powers are needed in order to catch criminals. It’s time someone mentioned that police forces in both countries already have those cross-border powers, and have had them for a long time.

As one RCMP officer put it to me, “We always had the ability to incorporate U.S. agencies in our investigations and they had the ability to do the same for us south of the border. We have been doing this for years with the understanding that they are there as observers and have no police powers and no weapons.”

For now, NxtGen is officially on hold pending agreement on “an enhanced officer protection regime.” Public Safety Canada recently told MacLean’s that it would be “inappropriate to report” on the state of the negotiations, but it is almost certain the use of deadly force is a problem. No versions of NxtGen are running anywhere in Canada at this time. According to some RCMP veterans that is the way it should remain.

“Canada is its own country and though we are heavily influenced by the U.S., we need to ensure that we do not become the little brother of a U.S. agenda. Once you give the U.S a platform to carry weapons and perform investigative duties inside our country, how far will they push the next envelope?”

When sovereignty issues and international policing demands collide, you don’t have to be Don Cherry to figure out which should prevail.


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