Ministry of Interior Failed In Encouraging Citizens to Report Crimes Committed By Police Officers

The Ministry of Interior of Montenegro have not conducted a sufficient number of activities in encouraging citizens to report crimes committed by police officers, especially corruption-related offences.

Institute Alternative (IA) organized a presentation of its research “Assessment of Police Integrity in Montenegro” in PR Centre on 13 December 2016. The research deals with the issues of external oversight, police accountability, financial and human resources management, as well as the criminal responsibility of police officers.

Dina Bajramspahić, the IA public policy researcher, pointed out that there were no significant steps forward, nor backsliding in the work dynamics of the Internal Control Department, having in mind both citizens’ complaints and legal scrutiny procedures initiated by the Police on their own.

“The number of citizens that turn to the Department is not particularly significant, and the same could be said about the number of complaints for which the Department actually gathers enough evidence, thus confirming their validity. Out of 238 citizens’ complaints submitted in the last 3 years and 8 months, 29 were found to be irrefutable, while the rest 209 complaints were rejected”.

Bajramspahić continued on saying that most of these complaints are of ethical concern, i.e. that they refer to dissatisfaction with police conduct, which leads to the conclusion that the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Department have not done much work on encouraging citizens to report offences committed by police officers, especially those which are corruption-related.”

On the other hand, it was acknowledged that more success was achieved when it comes to legal controls initiated by the Department on its own, which have been used since 2014.

“During this year 16 cases were noted in which the Department ordered the removal of irregularities, insufficiencies, and flaws that were identified. This can only be seen as a contribution for the organizational units of the police to function in a more systemic way, something which is especially important due to the fact that the conduct of MoI units in their own premises is not often a subject of a review of outside bodies”.

According to Bajramspahić, the strategic priority needs to be identifying criminal offenses and the submission of criminal charges, foremost due to the fact that the Criminal Procedure Code itself was amended specifically for strengthening internal control in criminal prosecution. The key indicator in performing these activities should be the total number of convictions and acquittals.

“However, the Department could not offer an exact number of indictments served in ratio to the number of criminal charges pressed, nor could it give out the precise number of judgments render by courts in this regard, something which cannot at all be regarded as good practice, as it points to problems in the communication between state bodies, whereas their cooperation should normally serve as a basis for successful prosecution of offenders” Bajramspahić emphasized.

Along the same lines, she warned that the number of complaints submitted to the heads of organizational units of MoI has been halved in 2015, compared to 2014.

“To be more precise, 76 complaints regarding police officers’ conduct were made to the organizational units they are part of. Still, this is more than the number of complaints received by other units in charge of controlling police conduct. Nevertheless, in the process, it was assessed that 75 complaints were unfounded, while only one was accepted as valid, which prolonged the earlier practice of discarding a significant portion of citizens’ complaints. During 2015 competent organizational units have pressed charges against 10 employees of the Police Directorate due to the suspicion that they have committed 12 offenses that are ought to be prosecuted ex officio”.

Bajramspahić further added that the heads of various departments have in 2015 initiated a number of procedures and sanctioned 147 police officers, while on the other hand requests were passed for initiating a misdemeanours procedure against 5 police officers.

“In the period from January 1st to 14th December, in the Department for determining serious and minor breaches of police officers’ official conduct 63 disciplinary procedures have been triggered against 68 police officers, where responsibility was detected in 41 cases, while 24 cases are still pending. About 35 officers were faced with fines ranging between 20% and 30% of their salaries, lasting from one to five months, and in three cases the penalty was conditional termination of the employment contract or one immediate termination of the employment contract, while two cases were suspended, and seven officers were acquitted: “According to available data, out of 16 judgments made between January 2013 and October 2015, in three cases jail sentences were declared.”

The discussion moved on the topic of opposition protest that occurred last year, Bajramspahić assessed that all public bodies, foremost the Department for Internal Control and the Prosecutor’s Office, failed in identifying the perpetrators: “There are currently 3 officers prosecuted, even though we all know that there were over 30 of them.”

Milena Milošević, the IA public policy researcher, stated that career advancement and moving up the rank in the police is still not structured on the basis of merit, something which negatively affects police integrity.

“The key problem is decision-making discretion in employing and deploying officers among various units”.

She also pointed out that assessment is made arbitrarily, and that the practice of referring to the scheme of the Law on Civil Servants and Appointees is continued, even though it does not provide for measuring professional results and is not adjusted to the nature of police work.

“According to our data for 2015, most of the officers were graded as ‘good’, while no one was handed with an unsatisfactory mark, which is at odds with the data from 2014 when 5 such cases were recorded”. She further stated that out of a total of 3,497 employees of the Ministry and the Police Directorate that were graded, 559 officers were deemed ‘excellent’, 2,589 received the grade ‘good’, while 359 were rated as ‘satisfactory’.

Aleksandra Vavić, the IA public policy researcher, talked on the topic of police parliamentary oversight. She stated that even though there is a sufficiently favorable legal framework, police oversight is still not implemented properly.

“When it comes to the Committee on Security and Defence, its stance in scrutinizing the police was pretty much passive compared to last year, as only 6 meetings were convened, and the first such meeting was held only in May”.

Ana Đurnić from the Institute Alternative, turn to the subject of access to information of public importance and the work being done by the Agency for the access to Information of public importance and protection of personal data. She recognized that the MoI is one of the public bodies which most frequently reports to the public and the Agency on the state of play in the domain of free access to information of public importance.

“During 2015 the MoI received 13% of the total number of requests for access to information of public importance. On the other hand, only 2% of complaints submitted in this regard targeted the Moi”.

Ivana Bogojević, the IA public policy researcher, revealed that the work of the Audit Department within the MoI is not transparent enough.

“Our conclusion is that the legislative capacities needed for conducting an internal audit are still not complete. That means that the Internal Audit Department in the MoI still has not fulfilled the legislative minimum of the necessary three civil servants working for it.

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