Innocentia is the Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking Unit. She is from Benin and has been based in Lyon, France since 2014.
Why did you become a police officer?
I actually wanted to be a lawyer or a prosecutor, and did all of my studies with this in mind, but everything changed when I did my Masters. There was a Police Superintendent in my group who noticed my work and encouraged me to apply. At the same time, Benin’s police force was actively opening its ranks to those who had studied law. Everything came together – I guess it was just meant to be.
What did you do in Benin before you were seconded to INTERPOL’s General Secretariat?
I was the Head of the Child Protection and Anti-Trafficking unit, which had a shelter for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. I managed 34 officers of all ranks. It was difficult work, but highly motivating. There were times when we would literally chase traffickers and abusers across international borders.
What has been one of your biggest professional challenges so far?
I would say starting out as a young police leader, especially in a traditionally male-dominated environment. You have to prove yourself to subordinates – men and women - who have 20 or 25 years’ experience. Thankfully I had the education and skills to see me through, as well as strong support from my hierarchy.
What do you like most about working in an international organization?
Being in contact with such a diverse audience of police professionals is extremely rewarding. It’s important to open oneself to new cultures, new horizons, and different working methods.
Anita is the Director of INTERPOL’s Innovation Centre, which brings together experts from the public, private and government sectors to research, develop and implement dynamic solutions to policing issues. She joined INTERPOL in 2017 and is based at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore.
What motivates you?
The idea that we can make a difference to police forces around the world, and working as part of a team towards a common goal. There’s nothing better than achieving success with your team – looking around and realizing that we’ve accomplished something.
What brought you to INTERPOL’s Innovation Centre?
I strongly believe that if we don’t prepare for the future of policing, we will fail. We must be alert and proactive, and these things aren’t necessarily in the genes of policing. Law enforcement is built to be responsive. So if we are looking to change the DNA of police organizations, what better place to do this than INTERPOL?
Have you always worked in policing?
I started my career as a police officer in the Netherlands – I was 17. I couldn’t drive the patrol car but I was patrolling the streets! I actually love the idea of how I started out – no phone, no technology. Policing has changed so much in my 36-year career.
How does one go from being a 17-year-old patrol officer to leading INTERPOL’s Innovation Centre?
I’ve always been extremely curious, with a drive to know and understand things. If I am being honest, and my team will recognize me here, I also don’t easily accept a ‘no’. There’s always a solution or an alternative. I’ve also invested in my education – three degrees - and worked hard to develop a strong network. I love being around people.
What has changed over the years?
Through the years, ‘equal opportunity’ became ‘diversity’, which is extremely important.
On the subject of International Women’s Day, I want to highlight that I’m not the only woman in a senior position at INTERPOL – I am in great company. But I will say that we look forward to more women joining our ranks and would encourage people from all different backgrounds to visit our careers page, as we have a number of key senior roles open at the moment.
Helene works at the security post of the General Secretariat building in Lyon. She greets visitors and staff, and helps keep the building, and the people inside, safe.
What is a typical day like at the security post?
There is no typical day, it’s never the same, and that makes the job very interesting. I welcome contractors, visitors, VIPs, conference participants. When people arrive, I am one of the first faces they see. It is my duty to represent the Organization well , but I also need to make people feel welcome.
When did you start working at INTERPOL?
I had a bit of an unusual journey. I started in 2001 as a receptionist at the security post. Then in 2005, I became an INTERPOL security guard, responsible for protecting the building and the staff who work here. In 2009, I pursued other projects, but returned to INTERPOL in 2013.
Why did you come back in 2013?
I missed the international environment, working with people of all different nationalities.
What are some of the challenges in your job?
We always have security in the back of our minds while managing interactions with those who come to the building. You have to be a good multi-tasker. We often juggle several situations at once: from a security threat, to a mass arrival of conference delegates, or a member of the public who wants to see the INTERPOL from the movies (true story!).
How have things changed since you’ve been at INTERPOL?
When I first joined INTERPOL, I was the only woman in the security team. I was then the first female security guard. Today, the entire security department is led by a woman. That’s clear progress, but there is still room to evolve… Maybe one day we will have a female Secretary General, who knows?