Police, Politics, Reforms and Corruption

Dina BajramspahićThe most numerous part of our state administration are police officers and it is a particularly demanding challenge to organise them in order to function effectively and to achieve the expected results. Particularly if we bear in mind the legacy of the ’90s, which has left extremely serious consequences on this institution as a result of a serious disruption of the expertise of employees in the police, its redundancy, declining professional standards for the job and employment in the police. Additionally, suspicions of corruption and connections of some police officers with the organised crime, make the situation further complicated.

When it comes to oversight of the police, the important progress has been made in recent years, and also in the field of parliamentary oversight, internal and civil control and control of the independent institutions. Not all supervisory authorities are equally successful, on the contrary, but when, for example, police officer sneezes into evidence material, the disciplinary proceedings against him are being automatically initiated – unlike most other Montenegrin state authorities which still cultivate the culture of covering up errors and misuses of their officers. (The example of perseverance in such conduct is the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which consistently hushed up the affair “Cigarillos”). However, police hasn’t significantly progressed in what is essential: the efficiency in combating crime, especially organised and economic crime and corruption.

The most recently obtained data show that the Police now has 4203 employees, which means that it has already achieved the planned reduction of the number of employees from the government’s plan of internal reorganization of the public sector from 2013. “The catch” is that the Government’s projection of reduction is not justified by any serious analysis, nor assessment. The number of “4287 until 2017” is random, so it is impossible to arguably say which number of police officers would be optimal. Therefore, it is more than likely that the Government and the Police have to reassess the number of employees and their organisation regarding the criterion of its efficiency.

Earlier this year, we have partnered with organizations from the region in the network POINTPULSE within the project whose aim is to contribute to the transformation of the police in the Balkans into the professional police service that enjoys trust and respect of its citizens.

Among other things, in the end of July, we have presented the results of a survey on the integrity of the police, made according to the same methodology in order to be comparable, in four capitals in the region, Podgorica, Belgrade, Sarajevo and Pristina.

In addition to IA, the Network is consisted of Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP), BIRN Serbia, Center for Security Studies from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovar Center for Security Studies.

The study has pointed to a kind of a paradox. The citizens of Montenegro have a relatively high confidence in the police, 58% of them, which puts this state authority in a second place, after the educational institutions, but, at the same time, 56% of citizens believe that corruption is widespread in the police.

When it comes to the citizens’ perception in whose interest the Police Administration works, only one third believes that the police act as they should, as a service of citizens. All the remaining respondents say that they act either in the Government’s interest or as the mean to cover and protect political parties, and 11% estimated that its line of action is to protect people who work at the top of Police Administration.

The majority of citizens, 70 percent of them, believe that politics has an impact on operational work of the police, completely and excessively, while the remaining 27 felt it has less or no impact at all.

What is particularly worrying and has long-term serious consequences on the quality of police work is a question of recruitment of new staff. Taking in account the opinion of citizens, the picture is not positive at all, because only one third of the respondents believe that employment is conducted in accordance with the law – through open competition. Even 48% of respondents say that recruitment is being conducted primarily through acquaintances, i.e. with the help of friends and relatives, or through political connections (41%), etc.

Yet, it’s not all black. Montenegrin police has received very high marks from the public when it comes to the effectiveness of public security in general (72% of citizens consider it effective), as well as school safety, traffic safety, protection of life and property of citizens. However, citizens consider the police inefficient when it comes to combating corruption in general (68%), catching the perpetrators of economic and organised crime and combating corruption in its own ranks.

The question of integrity of police officers should not be understood narrowly, in the context of corruption in the form of giving and receiving bribery. Much worse than that is the disrespect of professional police standards, passivity and inaction ex officio. Over the years, various Šarić and Kalić lived peacefully in our country and no one ever found it important to deal with them. And today there are many of those. An important issue for our further research is whether the state of Montenegro has done enough to encourage our officers to tackle the difficult challenges that are ahead? Whether they have fulfilled all the prerequisites to ensure that individuals from police opened tricky questions and gather evidence against dangerous criminal groups and Montenegrin potentates? Mild penal policy against the frequent attacks on police officers does not speak in favor of it. But this is only one of the indicators, we will deal with the others in the following months.

Dina BAJRAMSPAHIĆ
Public Policy Researcher

Text originally published in the section ,,Forum” of daily Vijesti

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