Interview for DAN: Ministry abolishing the Disciplinary Commission

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At the beginning of next year, the Ministry of Interion (MoI) will abolish the Disciplinary Commission, the body that has been initiating the largest number of procedures for reviewing the legality of police officers behavior. Instead, suspicious police officers, according to the provisions of the new Law on civil servants and state employees coming into force in January, will be examined by a new disciplinary commission that will be in charge of all state, local and police officials.

Public Policy Researcher at the NGO Institute Alternative, Dina Bajramspahić, also a member of the working group for drafting the new Law on internal affairs from which the provisions on the existence of the MoI’s disciplinary commission will be deleted, assessed this development as a very negative one. Bajramspahić explained that the work of this commission was not at the best level, but the sanctioning of illegal police behavior was at a certain level at least. New solution, the establishment of a new body that will be in charge of all state and local public servants, according to Bajramspahić, is bad for several reasons. Namely, the body that sanctioned the greatest number of police officers for unprofessional behavior is abolished, and these very important issues are left to a new commission that has no experience with police affairs. She also explained that it is not realistic to expect that the penal policy of a new body will remain at the same level, let alone improve, given that one commission will review behavior of tens of thousands of state and local officials.

It is very bad that MoI intends to abolish the Disciplinary Commission at the MoI level and that a disciplinary commission that will only be formed by the entry into force of the Law on civil servants and state employees (in January) will be in charge of all state, local and police officials. This is a very irresponsible solution. The nature of police work is a lot different from the classic public service. For this reason, it was necessary to keep the specialized commission with experience in working with the police officers – said Bajramspahić.

She reminded that the Institute Alternative’s research results on police integrity in Montenegro show that the number of proceedings against police officers is not insignificant. Nevertheless, the research results also show that only lower-ranking police officers are held accountable for the failure to meet work requirements and unlawful behavior.

“These are mostly lower-ranking officials and smaller breaches while the system is ineffective in determining responsibility for major breaches,” adds Bajramspahić.

She stressed the fact that MoI has 4,600 employees by its systematization and that results are insufficient with a space for greater consistency in initiating proceedings.

- Disciplinary proceedings are initiated by a disciplinary prosecutor on the basis of information obtained from the heads of departments. It is noticeable that in some organizational units of the police, department heads initiate more cases and, in some less, for same or similar examples of breaches of the official duty that are often repeated and this is not good. Namely, in 2017, 63 procedures for determining major disciplinary accountability were initiated, in 2016 there were 90, a year earlier 86, while 92 proceedings were initiated in 2014. Therefore, it is necessary for the police management to influence department heads whose number is estimated over 200, not to make exceptions and act selectively, as this undermines fairness in the treatment and officials’ trust in the service, and thus the overall functioning of the police – explains Bajramspahić.

She stressed that, in spite of this, it must be acknowledged that the MoI’s Disciplinary Commission sanctions more police officers than the “state” Disciplinary Commission, which has jurisdiction over about 8,000 employees in state administration, while there is no data for the local level.

- It is illegitimate to punish a single police officer for breaches, when others are not punished for criminal offenses. Examples of cases before the Disciplinary Commission are: “did not participate in securing a public gathering without justification,” “failed to check the input stamps,” “slept during patrol,” “refused to execute order of the Head of Sector – to question two persons in a citizen capacity, by requesting a written order from the Chief of Security Department,” “did not hand over a telegram with an emergency notice to the chief, ” etc. Of course there are major breaches as well, albeit much less often, but disciplinary proceedings can also terminate employment – said Bajramspahić. She also recalled that this year they found two important cases where police officers avoided responsibility before the disciplinary commission by taking sick leave.

Accountability at higher levels is evaded

Bajramspahić pointed out that officers in senior positions are held accountable to a lesser extent, that there is no systemic accountability for the results and that there are a number of cases where under political influence agreement has been reached that no one will be held accountable.

- In the first place, I refer to those responsible for the excessive use of force after the protests, but, unfortunately, the list is much longer. Criminal accountability of police officers is a special topic, and although there is a shift in this area, there is also a lack of consistency – explained Bajramspahić.

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