Police torture issues to be solved systematically
We are encouraged by the prompt reaction of the Prosecutor’s Office and conducted hearings of 8 members of Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SAJ). When compared to the previous period, the Prosecutor’s Office does not show the passivity in its work and we hope that they will persist in this kind of acting, showing its integrity by prosecuting each case of abuse of authority.
Additionally, it is praiseworthy that only one day after the protest the Police Administration has established a Commission to determine circumstances which led to the use of the means of force. We expect results from this body, not idliness. The Commission should continue its work and reviewing submitted reports as well as clarifying possible inconsistencies in testimonies.
Several years in a row, the police showed positive trend in its work with increased number of cases against police officers for violations of the law, official duty and ethical code. The management of the police and the Ministry of Interior (MoI) have to ensure that each officer who overstepped the competences gets held accountable, and therefore, give the best answer to the question whether excessive use of force was instructed, or police officers have acted on their own initiative.
Therefore, we expect that the Police will prove that, what has undoubtedly happened in a number of cases, was not encouraged by the top of the chain of command in the Police by prosecuting violators and showing other officials that these are not the values that our Police promotes and preserves.
We are also witnesses of many assessments of police acting as irresponsible, populist and other extremely biased attitudes that polarize society – ranging from those who claim that the police is innocent to those who claim that the police is completely responsible for everything that happened. In this way, the simplified treatment of this problem does not bring us any closer to what should be a common goal – to ensure that nothing similar happens again and that we build a professional police that serves its citizens. On the occasion of next Pride Parade or when riots break out eg. after the match, we expect that the police protects its citizens and all preconditions must be ensured.
IA therefore calls upon all actors dealing with the issues of police work to jointly prepare the set of measures for combating police torture which has to become an integral part of the Strategy for the Development and the Functioning of the Police 2016-2020 which is being prepared by the MoI.
Although the first thing should be the prosecution of those who violated the law, it will not be enough to ensure that all police officers act within their competences in future situations. The issue of police torture is very complex, and even though it may be, it is not only a political issue. It also reflects the fact that a number of officers failed to adopt the values of non-violent and humane treatment. We must strive to have police officers who will be empowered to refuse unethical order or to stop a colleague who acts against the law.
Police officers need to be continuously trained with specific examples of how to deal with stressful situations and incidents, (because the regulations stipulate that police officers can be held accountable when acting ex officio and when they are not), as well as to have regular medical and psychological controls.
We should also encourage police officers to report their colleagues who were demonstrating excessive use force, who have, by doing that, not only caused serious bodily harm to citizens who have exercised their constitutional right to protest, but have undermined arduously gained confidence in the police, and threw a shadow over all the good that the police has achieved in previous years.
Public policy researcher